The Forgotten Migrants
The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) released their official count of migrants that are dead or missing at 28,500 as of Oct. 1; however, new research has shown that this number may be around half of the actual total of those missing or dead.
An Associated Press tally has listed that number at least 58,600 migrants since 2014, a number predicted to be much lower than the actual total. The AP’s research included a variety of methods including requesting forensic records, missing persons reports and death records, and reviewing interviews with thousands of migrants.
Despite this extensive research, there is an indeterminate number of bodies lying in the desert or at the bottom of the sea with families left waiting with no answers about the state of their loved ones. The AP’s tally shows Africa with the largest number of unreported missing and dead migrants within the IOM’s calculations.
While Western politics lead many to believe that massive waves of African migrants are trying to cross into Europe, the large majority of African migrants migrate within Africa- around 16 million in total.
Since 2014, at least 18,400 migrants have gone missing or died traveling within the continent. Compared to other African countries, South Africa has the largest number of incoming migrants due to its stable government and thriving economy.
More than 4,300 of those 18,400 included in AP’s tally are the unidentified bodies in the South African province of Gauteng. Gauteng province, which roughly translates to “land of gold,” has a strong underground economy that attracts desperate migrants looking to make a living.
The bodies lay in tiny coffins, five to a single grave, in a poorly kept area of a South African cemetery. Their coffins are labeled anonymously, with titles such as “Unknown B/Male.”
A pilot program has been started by the International Committee of the Red Cross and one of the Gauteng morgues where detailed photos, fingerprints, dental information and DNA samples are taken of unidentified bodies. Theoretically, the database they are compiling will help the bodies be traced.