The IOM’s Missing Migrants Project: The Global Authority on Border Deaths

  • Yussef Al Tamimi
  • Paolo Cuttitta
  • Tamara Last
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


The tragic shipwreck off the island of Lampedusa on 3 October 2013 spurred the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to take up the issue of border deaths by setting up the Missing Migrants Project (MMP), which compiles and monitors data on border deaths worldwide. By the summer of 2015, the project was online and increasingly cited as the source of data on border deaths. This chapter provides a critical analysis of the MMP and the IOM’s emergence as an authority on border deaths. It argues that taking up the issue of border deaths and incorporating it into the main tasks of the IOM’s new Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, as well as IOM Country Offices, has aided the IOM in presenting itself as both a technical and humanitarian actor. This has helped the IOM in gaining political legitimacy and in strengthening its position as the leading global player in the field of migration and border management. The chapter aims, firstly, to raise the question of how the MMP, while not being an official death count, has become a leading authority on border death data. Secondly, the chapter asks how the IOM presented the MMP to the public and stakeholders. Thirdly, the chapter critically analyses the IOM’s ‘neutral’ politics of counting.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yussef Al Tamimi
    • 1
  • Paolo Cuttitta
    • 2
  • Tamara Last
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.European University InstituteFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.University of Paris 13ParisFrance
  3. 3.Vrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  4. 4.University of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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