On 20-21 September 2023 a Rabat Process thematic meeting on family separation and missing persons in the context of migration will take place in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting will focus in particular on prevention, tracing and reunification. It will be co-chaired by Switzerland and the Gambia and will bring together representatives of Rabat Process partner countries and organisations, as well as experts in the field.

Missing migrants in the context of migration

While the issue of missing persons and separated families is usually associated with armed conflicts, it has also emerged in recent years as a concern for the international community in the context of migration and forced displacement. Many migrants lose contact with their families when stranded or in detention without means of communication. Of particular concern are unaccompanied migrant children who have lost their families and are left in vulnerable situations. The consequences of migrants going missing do not only affect their families but their entire communities in the countries of origin and destination. Governments and other stakeholders have progressively begun to recognise the need to address this human tragedy, which requires not only national solutions but also regional and transregional cooperation along migratory routes. Both the African Union and the Council of Europe have already taken several steps to address these issues.

The topic of missing migrants within the Rabat Process

In view of these developments and momentum, the Rabat Process provides a unique and unprecedented platform for dialogue and joint initiative of States in Africa and Europe to further address this human tragedy by reinforcing their cooperation, developing common approaches and sharing data and good practices with a view to contribute to evidence-based policies and programming that could reduce risks and save lives.

In 2022, the Rabat Process partners agreed to include the issues of family separation and missing migrants in the Cadiz Action Plan, their multi-annual cooperation programme. Domain 3, which addresses protection and asylum, now includes objective 5b to “Promote actions to respect the dignity and the human rights of migrants and persons in need of protection”. Switzerland, host country of the upcoming meeting, also acts as reference country for this Domain. In this capacity, Switzerland piloted two roundtables on unaccompanied minors in 2021.

The upcoming thematic meeting will

  • Bring together Rabat Process partner countries and organisations for a discussion on concrete avenues for collaboration in the prevention and resolution of cases of family separation and missing migrants;
  • Discuss cooperation mechanisms at national and transnational levels as well as good practices to prevent migrants from going missing, trace missing migrants and cooperate with the families left behind. A spotlight will be put on best interest determination procedures of unaccompanied or separate minors.


Representatives of Rabat Process partner countries and organisations may still register until 1 September 2023: