Experiences of racial discrimination against missing people and their families

We have released a briefing report and new guidance today in response to disclosures of discrimination faced by families when reporting their loved one missing to the police.

Read the report

Families of colour have told Missing People about their experiences of discrimination in the response from agencies. Experiences include families feeling they were not listened to, that their missing loved one was not seen as a high priority and struggles to get the same level of media coverage as others for their missing person.

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).

Jo Youle, Chief Executive of Missing People, said: “Last year, we asked people with lived experience to come forward and help us to better understand this issue. We also reviewed historic files and spoke to professionals, including our front-line team. We heard about situations where missing person reports were not accepted by the police, where concerns weren’t taken seriously, or missing people weren’t prioritised. Families felt that their loved ones were criminalised, or that assumptions were made due to their race.”

The briefing highlights responses from family members of colour, experiences shared with Missing People staff, and other professionals working in the area of missing persons.

Jo adds: “We have begun to identify areas within the process where people feel they have been let down by agencies. We can also see the impact this has, both on the family reporting, and on the missing person themselves. We believe there now needs to be more research carried out to better understand the nature and scale of any discrimination faced, as well as to examine the over-representation of Black people in missing persons statistics.

We are also calling for training to be provided to police officers, and for improved monitoring of the response for missing people of colour.”

One respondent to the survey, who remains anonymous, said: “The impact has been very heart breaking, causing extreme anxiety, depression and feeling helpless and alone. There was high evidence that many people that I knew of colour also were affected in the same way. The families that were affected that were not of colour had a more positive and higher level of emergency response to their cry for help.”

Jo adds: “The media also have a part to play in ensuring a fairer response when someone goes missing. Over the following months, we plan to work closely with journalists and people with lived experience to produce best practice guidance when covering missing people in the media.”

If you have been affected by a disappearance and feel that you have been discriminated against because of your or your family’s ethnicity, read our new guidance here.

Read the report

Missing People’s free and confidential helpline is open 9am-11pm 7 days per week for anyone who is missing, thinking of leaving, or who has a missing loved one. Call or text 116 000 or visit www.missingpeople.org.uk