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Mediterranean countries launch plan to identify dead migrants

Migrants rescued by the Spanish coast guard [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 April, 2018

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More than 20,000 migrants have disappeared or died while trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean.
Four European countries are launching an initiative in June to identify thousands of migrants who died or went missing while making the perilous sea journey across the Mediterranean. 

Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus — the European countries hardest hit by waves of migrants from Syria, Libya and elsewhere — will gather on June 11 in Rome to discuss the plan, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) said on Wednesday.

"If we succeed in launching this initiative, and it looks very good that we will, it will be [historic]," said ICMP director general Kathryne Bomberger.

The cooperation between states will help to properly quantify the numbers of missing and dead, track survivors and locate bodies, Bomberger said.

Southern Mediterranean countries like Libya and Egypt are also to be invited as observers to the talks, she added.

Well over 20,000 migrants have disappeared or died trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2014. Increasingly tight security along Europe's eastern borders has forced migrants to choose the more perilous sea journeys.

Some 559 people were already reported dead or missing in 2018, according to the International Organization for Migration.    

The ICMP was born out of the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and set up in 1996 in Sarajevo by then US president Bill Clinton.

Using increasingly sophisticated DNA research methods, it has already succeeded in identifying some 70 per cent of the 40,000 people who went missing in the Balkans conflicts of the 1990s, including 90 per cent of the 8,000 killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

Switzerland has donated around $400,000 to fund the current ICMP project. 

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