Families in Zimbabwe whose loved ones have gone missing migrating to other countries face serious challenges in the search for their relatives according to the fourth in a series of reports from the International Organization of Migration’s (IOM) Global Migration Data Analysis Centre.
The report, Families of missing migrants in Zimbabwe: Their search for answers, the impacts of loss and recommendations for improved support,” indicates a general lack of awareness and understanding of the needs of families of missing migrants has resulted in inadequate or non-existent institutional responses to support them with their search efforts.
These families also must cope with devastating legal, financial and administrative impacts of the absence.
“Data that sufficiently captures the needs of the families of missing migrants in Zimbabwe is scarce, and is not taken into account in the planning of policies and services,” said GMDAC Director Frank Laczko in Berlin.
“As a result, families receive little support in their search for their relatives, which exacerbates the psychological and emotional impacts of their loss.”
The report series is based on conversations with 76 families of missing migrants in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
Research carried out in Zimbabwe’s Manicaland province found that most of the families did not know where to start or whom to contact when they stopped hearing from loved ones who migrated to another countries, primarily South Africa. Many were unaware they could report disappearances to the authorities or did not know which agency or unit they should approach to file reports.
The families’ testimonies indicate that the disappearance of their relatives and the lack of institutional support have also contributed to ongoing psychological anguish, as families live in a constant state of apprehension and ambiguous loss as a result of not knowing what happened to their relatives.
“The years I have lost my brother have been the most painful years, not only for me but for all of us as a family,” said Mr. Foroma, who has been searching for his brother who went missing on his journey to South Africa. “When your brother goes missing like this, without a trace, not a day would pass by without thinking about it and reliving the pain.”
In 2015, nearly 200 countries pledged to “leave no one behind” as they adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Three years later, in 2018, more than 150 countries adopted the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) and committed to “save lives (…), identify those who have died or gone missing, and to facilitate communication with affected families”.
Still, missing migrants and their families remain invisible in data and policy debates about safe migration. This data gap and the lack of adequate efforts to listen to their voices and address their needs leads to their persistent exclusion and marginalization.
The report, produced by GMDAC and the Missing Migrants Project in collaboration with the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, proposes blueprints for authorities, including those in Zimbabwe, to provide a uniform response to cases of missing migrants and support to their families left behind.
Moving forward, IOM plans to work together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and government counterparts in Zimbabwe and South Africa to develop and improve mechanisms, tools and procedures that will help the families of missing migrants find answers about their missing relatives.