Discrimination in the response when someone is reported missing

Missing People charity is calling for more people to come forward and share experiences of discrimination faced during a missing person report.

Families from Black and other minoritised ethnic communities have told Missing People about their experiences of discrimination in the response from agencies when they have reported a loved one missing, and in the media coverage of their loved one’s disappearance.

For families who are already facing the toughest trauma, this response can make them feel powerless, worried that their missing loved one is not being made a high enough priority, and frustrated that the media are not doing more to publicise their loved one.

We are committed to understanding more so that we can better support and advocate for families and help to make change happen, led by families with lived experience. We don’t yet know if the experiences we are hearing about are part of a wider pattern, and we also await the perspective of police forces.

After reviewing historical case files and from some initial conversations with families, we have seen examples of families identifying discrimination they have experienced at every stage of a missing incident. From police not accepting initial missing reports, to family members receiving dismissive responses during the investigation.

We are gathering more information from people who have reported a loved one missing, or have been reported missing themselves, to understand this issue in more depth. A survey is now live, where people with lived experience can share details with us, anonymously if they wish.

We are also feeding families’ experiences into the Independent Office for Police Complaints thematic focus on race discrimination investigations.

A linked but separate issue is that people from Black communities in particular continue to be over-represented in missing person numbers, making up 14% of missing person reports while only 3% of the general population (National Crime Agency, 2019/20 report).

Jo Youle, Chief Executive at Missing People, said:

“There is an opportunity for all those involved in supporting this community – the police, charities including Missing People, and the media – to come together to understand, to listen to families with lived experience and to tackle discrimination. We believe that the response must include: police forces regularly reviewing how they respond when people report a person missing, including how families’ views feed into risk assessments; ensuring that every person reporting a loved one missing is referred to support services which can provide advocacy if needed; and media organisations reviewing their approach to publicising missing people.”

If you have experienced discrimination when reporting someone missing, due to your or your missing person’s race or ethnicity, please take our survey.

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