Creating a new framework of respect for the rights of missing

& dead refugees and migrants and bereaved family members

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By Last Rights, May 8 2018 12:30PM

The Last Rights Project will host an historic meeting on the Island of Lesbos, Greece.

Over 50 experts from three continents will meet to agree a new set of international guidelines and standards for the just and dignified treatment of all families who have lost a loved one on migration journeys across the world.

Thousands of people, many of them children, often exploited and always at extreme risk, have lost their lives or gone missing whilst making border crossings or migrant journeys.

In addition to the pain of losing a member of their family, their loved ones further suffer from the lack of appropriate responses from the state authorities. They don't know what has happened, don't know where their dead may be buried and are unable to obtain justice.

Over these two days, the Last Rights Project, with the assistance of an expert working group drawn from across civil society, will create the first ever over-arching set of standards in this sadly overlooked area of human rights abuse. 

The standards - to be known as The Mytilini Protocols will be offered to States and to international and regional institutions of state, to adopt and incorporate into their own policies and working practices.

This will inform an agreed new international understanding of the rights of the bereaved and the missing to ensure that already traumatic experiences are not made worse through injustice, inadequate resources and bureaucratic obstacles. 

In her report to the UN of August 2017, "Unlawful Death of Refugees and Migrants" which makes reference to the work of Last Rights, Dr. Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said,

"Large numbers of refugees and migrants die or go missing every year at both land and sea borders. For the most part, the names of the missing and dead are unknown; their families have not been traced; and where bodies have been found, they are too often buried in unnamed graves. This represents one of the great untold tragedies of this catastrophe, one that triggers the responsibility of States to provide dignity and accountability in death.

The scale of casualties among refugees and migrants demands urgent attention at national, regional and international levels. The report presents recommendations for this purpose. The equal protection of all lives, regardless of migration status, is a central underpinning of the entire international human rights system: it must be upheld in the context of the movement of people and must form the foundation of all governmental and intergovernmental policies.”

More details of the project and the draft guidelines can be found on our website at

Catriona Jarvis and Syd Bolton, the co-conveners of the project are available for interview and comments by email to:

[email protected]

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