Establishing the International Day of the Unknown Migrant

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Those who emigrate don’t know the destination they are heading for. Migration flows have neither border nor identity. Local measures cannot be the answer to such a global phenomenon.

Do you remember Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old child wearing a red T-shirt and blue shorts lying on a Turkish beach after drowning? His picture spread around the world, but without teaching us anything. Do you remember the fourteen-year-old teenager travelling to Italy with his school report sewn to his jacket to prove he deserved to live in our country? He died in the Mediterranean Sea, without anyone mourning him. He didn’t teach us anything either. Do you remember the bodies of father and daughter who died trying to cross a narrow stretch of the Rio Grande River into the U.S. ?         

Just in the first 4 months of 2019, 422 persons died in the Mediterranean Sea – more than three a day. On average, this is the highest percentage of deaths of the total of departures since 2014. And since 2014 we have not learnt anything yet. Above all, these are just the ascertained victims – we cannot even determine the number of all the other victims. We only know that for each migrant we bury, there are at least ten others whose bodies will not be claimed by anyone – missing migrants without a grave to lay a flower on.

During these years we have learnt the language of immigration: flows, reception, integration have become words of our common vocabulary. Only one actor has been guiltily left on the fringe of such dynamics even if he represents their epicentre: the Unknown Migrant.

A countless number of persons disappear during the journeys of hope. Innocent lives, deceived by vendors of illusions, swallowed up by the abysses of deserts, of seas and of other badlands. They are infants, children, mothers and young teenagers crossing the geographical and existential suburbs of an indifferent and hostile world. They are the invisible migrants, who disappear without a trace in their audacious journeys or in their landing places that become no-man’s land, the hunting reserve of human trafficking and the most unmentionable dark sides of our “advanced” societies.

Unfortunately, migrants appear on tv and newspapers only when they get on board of rescue boats. Nobody knows anything of all the other desperate migrants, of ghost landings, of the victims of human flesh traffickers, nobody cares about them, no one enters them in the agenda of national and European priorities.  
Yet, the unknown migrants disappeared in the indifferent and complicit silence of “water graves” or smugglers represent the most part of migration flows. Therefore, an international day should be dedicated to them, to raise public awareness and educate consciences – mainly those of the new generations – on this sad and inescapable phenomenon of our globalized third millennium. Anyone supporting the establishment of such a day will be leaven in the dough and will demonstrate to be able to read the signs of the time. The institutions, the third sector and conscious citizens are called upon to share this occasion for concrete commitment.     

From these considerations derives an urgent appeal to the UN, the Holy See and the Italian Government that have been cooperating for years in the reception of migrants, for the establishment of:


The Mediterranean Sea -in spite of itself - has turned into a modern Holocaust. It took 60 years to establish the Holocaust Memorial Day – let’s not wait for such a long time again. The International Unknown Migrant Day would be a proof of the collective mobilization of peoples and consciences for an emergency that has now become a daily contingency.

Some local actions, such as the establishment of the Italian day of victims of migration on the 3rd of October, deserve praise, but for the supranational relevance of the emergency a specific initiative for stronger mobilitation is needed for raising awareness beyond any given boundary. That reveals the need for legislative acts and campaigns at a EU level.

Nobody can pretend not to know that their brother is disappearing into the jaws of despair.

First signers:
Paolo Borrometi
Annamaria Furlan
Carlo Verna
Marco Frittella
Giacomo Galeazzi
Mons. Michele Pennisi