As people worldwide flee war, hunger and a lack of jobs, global migration has soared to record highs. Far less visible, however, has been its toll: The tens of thousands of people who die or simply disappear during their journeys, never to be seen again.
A growing number of migrants have drowned, died in deserts or fallen prey to traffickers, leaving their families to wonder what on earth happened to them. At the same time, anonymous bodies are filling cemeteries around the world. In most cases, nobody is keeping track: Barely counted in life, these people don't register in death, as if they never lived at all.
In a project called The Missing, the Associated Press seeks to track the journeys and tell the stories of some of these migrants. An AP tally has documented at least 56,800 migrants dead or missing worldwide since 2014 — almost double the number found in the world's only official attempt to try to count them, by the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration. Over a year, the AP compiled information from international groups, requested forensic records, missing persons reports and death records, and examined thousands of interviews with migrants.
The disaappearances leave behind families caught between hope and mourning, like that of Tunisian mother Safi al-Bahari. Her son left for Europe in a small boat in 2001 and never returned.
"I just wait for him. I always imagine him behind me, at home, in the market, everywhere," she said. "When I hear a voice at night, I think he's come back. When I hear the sound of a motorcycle, I think my son is back."
This package will be available for use after 12:01 a.m. Eastern on Thursday, Nov. 1. It will include:
Text: Main bar of 3,800 words, by Lori Hinnant. With methodology box, abridged version of 900 words and shorter versions for Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas
Photos: Two photo essays from Tunisia and South Africa, by Nariman El-Mofty and Bram Janssen
Video: Video package by Bram Janssen.
This is the third story in The Missing project. Earlier stories, photos and video can be found here: https://www.apnews.com/TheMissing
Three more stories are planned in the coming weeks, from Honduras, Indonesia and Italy.
If you have questions, please contact international enterprise editor Mary Rajkumar, email@example.com, or 347-522-1848.