UNITED for Intercultural Action is a partner of the project, represented by Geert Ates.

Geert Ates is director of the Amsterdam Campaign Secretariat of UNITED for Intercultural Action, the pan-European network against nationalism, racism, fascism, and in support of migrants and refugees, supported by more than 550 organizations from 48 European countries. The ‘Fatal Policies of Fortress Europe’ is an ongoing campaign of the UNITED network investigating the consequences of the building of Fortress Europe. Since 1993 UNITED has been collecting reliable data on refugee deaths. In the period 1993-2023, more than 52.760 refugee deaths are listed in the UNITED list. Thousands more are never found. As the campaign coordinator and Director of the UNITED Amsterdam office, Geert Ates delivers an important part of the source data, and in-depth knowledge of metadata, allowing the consortium to develop a sustainable and inclusive data platform and information set up.

A structured summary from the two-day interview with Geert and Dorien from UNITED, at their office in Amsterdam

Ethical posture

The list, in the 1990s, was created to show that people die at the borders, and then raise awareness through the total number of cases.

There is a tension between the form of the list, which appears very dry, and bureaucratic, and the emotionality of it, that is mentioned by the people in charge of encoding the cases. (Ates 2023)

Uses and misuses of the list.

Technological context

The creators of the list were maintaining another list, at the time of the creation, the European adress book against racism , for which first Appleworks, then filemaker was used.

Today, for the search of new cases, there is an use of multiples Google tools: Google Alerts, Google Translate, Google Maps.

The list itself is encoded on Apple computers, in an office of two employed people, occasionally helped by volunteers, through the software Filemaker. (Ates 2023)

Posture towards data

Each case is treated as an entry in the database. For instance, for the description, the field length is limited, based on the size of what would be a print out on Portrait-oriented A4 paper of the list, and where each case should fit within one line. The fields in the database, to encode each case, evolved over time, influenced by the change in the information encountered, but sometimes fields were added, as specific groups or people would enquire about more detailed information (for example, how many people died of self-harm).

“We are dealing with public data”. Need to address the RGDP of dead people but what if there are not dead? (Ates 2023)

Mourning practices

The list has been used by artists, for public reading, installations of different kinds, and performances. The way the list is built, and structured, constrains its possible posterior uses.

United list indexing deaths

A list made from newspapers information (the all methodology is described in a doc). A lot of artists start to work on the list (various artistic production). One of them is Arkadi.

Despite the recent development of forensic humanitarian action (Moon 2020), the number of anonymous deaths in the UNITED, MMP and DBD lists is still far higher than the number of identified ones (Moon 2020). The underpinning problem is, amongst others, the lack of a European framework and protocol for systematic forensic investigation and uniform migrant death management systems. Despite recurrent claims by forensic experts (Cattaneo et al. 2015; M’charek and Casartelli 2019; and M’charek and Black 2020), NGOS and Human Rights Councils (HRC 2018) European jurisdiction does not provide an international protocol and framework yet. Opposed to deaths in armed conflict and humanitarian disaster, migrant border deaths do not require systematic identification in Europe. Because of this distinction between criminal, natural and accidental deaths, the forensic procedures consisting in collecting medical and biological data from the migrant corpses are not systematically carried out (M’charek and Black 2020).

Ates, Geert. 2023. “UNITED for Intercultural Action : On the Death List.”