ICMP is part of an INTERPOL Incident Response Team (IRT) which has deployed to the Philippines in order to assess Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) requirements after Typhoon Haiyan hit that island more than a week ago leaving thousands of people displaced, dead and missing.
In addition to ICMP the team includes specialists from INTERPOL, DVI and DNA experts from Canada and South Africa. As part of the assessment mission, the IRT will meet the Philippine authorities and make recommendations for the recovery and identification of victims, as well as coordinate national and international DVI efforts.
ICMP and INTERPOL have worked together in the past in the Philippines. In 2008, after Typhoon Frank struck, over 1,000 people were unaccounted for. Five years later, Typhoon Haiyan has hit the same area, leaving thousands of people dead or missing. Local authorities have buried many victims; however, these numbers are unknown.
“The priority in the Philippines is to address the immediate humanitarian needs of the surviving victims of the Typhoon; however, it is important to begin a process of assessing the scale of numbers of persons missing so that a plan can be developed to address this problem. In 2008, following Typhoon Frank, ICMP worked together with INTERPOL and the Philippine authorities in locating and identifying the majority of the over 700 persons missing as a consequence of the capsizing of M.S. Princess of the Stars. This experience should help in conducting the assessment and putting together a plan for future assistance,” said ICMP Director General Kathryne Bomberger.
ICMP with INTERPOL has been engaged in joint DVI missions in Thailand, the Philippines, Haiti, Congo and Kenya.
“Clearly, one of the main priorities for the Philippine authorities is to find and rescue as many living victims as possible and for the humanitarian relief operations to continue. But what is also important is the swift and accurate identification of the thousands of victims, which is where international support and coordination is essential and where INTERPOL can unite the global community in these efforts. INTERPOL’s previous experience in providing this type of help can play an important role and we will continue to work with our member countries to provide whatever assistance required and requested by the Philippine authorities,” said Michael O’Connell, INTERPOL’s Director of Operational Support who is heading the IRT.
ICMP and INTERPOL signed an Agreement on Cooperation in November 2007, which recognized the need to foster and co-ordinate international co-operation in the field of locating and identifying missing persons in time of disasters, and where appropriate to coordinate efforts to provide assistance to justice in cases related to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The ICMP is the only specialized international organization of its kind that addresses the issue of missing persons in all of its facets. To date it has assisted governments in locating and identifying over 18,500 missing persons globally.