Memorials to people who have died and to those missing during migration: a global project

Migration across the globe has resulted in the deaths or ‘missing’ status of hundreds of thousands of people. How the impact of loss on such a scale is recognised and understood is a major social challenge; from a baseline appreciation of what this means within the context of our shared humanity, to cognisance of the human impact of policy decisions and responsibility for the consequences of these decisions. This challenge is amplified when the loss occurs across bodies of water and in desert and remote mountainous areas, where the bodily evidence is removed from sight.

This project directly addresses these complex issues through the creation of an interdisciplinary research platform. Its goal is to ‘presence’ the missing people and those left behind, in the minds and narratives of policy makers and wider society. We are working with researchers in migration policy, human rights, heritage studies, forensic archaeology and oceanography, along with key UN organisations (IOM GMDAC, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNESCO) non-governmental organisations (NGOs), family and migrant organisations and charities to establish how best this should be done.

Research across the relevant fields in social science and archaeology has demonstrated the importance of memorialisation, to enable death, mourning, respect for those left behind and for reconciliation to be successful.  Furthermore, at policy level, the act of presenting the dead gives a voice to those who no longer have one and means their loss may benefit future generations.  The aim of this project is to fund the initial stages of creating a research platform to support the establishment of a global network of internationally recognised memorials to the many hundreds of thousands of people who have gone missing or died during their migration journeys. A multidisciplinary team of researchers in migration policy, human rights, heritage studies and oceanography is needed to establish how best this should be done. The work will take place in close collaboration with families, migrants organisations, NGOs and civil society.

Listen to Ann talking about the stories of those Left Behind on the BBC World Service.

Welcome to Europe activities in Lesvos, includes poetry, music and other ways of remembering people who have died during migration.‘Lost at border’ is a booklet that documents such activities over the last ten years.

Academic Lead

Ann Singleton –


Worldwide University Network

This project is associated with the MMB Challenge on Resistance, transformation, justice