MISSING: Black Britons are twice more likely to go missing than their white counterparts
ON THE first day of 2017, 16-year-old Tia Brade went missing. For the next few days, her distraught family and friends searched the streets of Islington, north London, trying to find the schoolgirl. There were rumours that the 5ft 8in teenager had travelled to Hastings in East Sussex. Thankfully, Tia turned up at Hastings police station a short time after public appeals to find her were issued.
Behind every person who goes missing is a worried family, uncertain or unable to move forward with their lives.
Psychologists have coined the term ambiguous loss, which is one that occurs without closure or understanding, leaving loved ones searching for answers and it is something that affects thousands of families in the UK.
According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), more than 320,000 people go missing every year. That figure is startling enough in itself, but the agency noted that during 2014/2015, 20,498 black individuals were reported missing; 10,935 males and 9,563 females.
According to the NCA’s figures people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds represent 11.2 per cent of those reported missing, even though they only constitute 3.3 per cent of the UK population. Comprehensive research as to why so many people from BAME communities go missing is yet to be done.
Campaigners say that providing a more detailed ethnic breakdown of the numbers of people who go missing each year in the UK is challenging, because not every missing persons case is identified and recorded as such, and not every case is reported to the authorities.
A 2003 study found that seven per cent of people reported to the then-National Missing Persons Helpline were from an African-Caribbean or African background, highlighting an overrepresentation of people from these communities.
The reasons as to why people go missing can vary, from anxiety, depression, homelessness, family conflict, abuse and relationship breakdown. Dr Karen Shalev- Greene, the director of the Centre for the Study of Missing Persons and senior lecturer with the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth, believes there is a void in discussing the issue, which she believes must be addressed urgently.
Dr Shalev-Greene said:
“Because the issues of missing persons within the black community revolves around a minority group they are not represented adequately in certain academic circles. The topic is not being openly addressed.” But the academic believes the issue of missing persons within the black community is also being marginalised by mainstream press.
“The press has a bias in terms of who, how, and when it is reporting about missing people. The media looks for ideal victims, and so the higher the socio-economic status and the more innocent an individual looks, the more attention is often received,” she said.
“Ethnic groups who are missing receive less coverage and attention, especially from the tabloid newspapers; often missing African Caribbean persons are viewed as run of the mill incidents. “Additionally, there is a tendency to portray missing African Caribbean children as being involved in gangs.”
It is a situation that is mirrored in the United States when black people go missing. According to the FBI’s National Centre for Missing Persons, 678,860 people in the United States were reported missing last year. Of those 678,860, about 40 per cent, or 270,680 individuals, were people of colour. Some media observers believe that scant attention from newspapers, stereotypes and other presumptions, have contributed to this sector of the missing population going under the radar of police authorities and the public.
Derrica Wilson, the president of the Black and Missing Foundation in the US, said: “A lot of people in our community are unaware that this is a big issue, because when we turn on the television, we don’t see ourselves or people that look like us. Often, local law enforcement staff assume that missing young black people are runaways.”
When we questioned the UK Missing Persons Bureau about the seemingly high numbers of black people reported missing, few reasons were given. The lack of information is alarming, given that the ethnicity of missing persons has been recorded since 2010.
Speaking to The Voice, Louise Veseley-Shore, senior officer at UK Missing Persons Bureau, said: “It does not surprise me that the Bureau has struggled to uncover the reasons why large numbers of the black community are reported missing. “We don’t have the capacity to carry out research ourselves, and for this reason we have begun liaising with various academics to help us.
“It is our goal to gather research material to respond more effectively to the needs of various ethnic groups, but nothing has been done yet.”
Part 2 of this story will be published online tomorrow from 4pm GMT.
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