Mariam went missing on a boat, along with all her travel companions. Her husband began to search for her immediately in the hope of finding her alive.
On 27 December 2018, Mariam Cissé’s husband contacted us. His wife had crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on an inflatable rowing boat with 12 other people. That day, at 12:26, he forwarded us a voice message from another organisation that said: “Your family members were travelling on a boat. We have just called Salvamento Marítimo and they confirmed that the vessel has been rescued and the passengers are now in Spain”. Mariam’s husband was extremely worried but he was keen to believe that his wife was alive, despite neither her nor any of her travel companions making contact.
No alerts were received from Mariam’s boat by our hotline, but relatives of several passengers contacted us later on. Ca-minando Fronteras launched a search of the Spanish coastline to confirm whether or not they had been rescued. We also began to investigate the whereabouts of 10 people who had risked their lives on a ‘toy’ rowing boat.
On 28 December, we confirmed that the information provided by the other organisation was incorrect: Mariam and her companions had not been rescued. The next day, the second boat was found by the Moroccan authorities with five dead passengers and five survivors.
However, the other organisation continued to share misinformation among migrant communities, assuring them that both boats had reached Spain and that the survivors had not contacted their loved ones as they were in police custody. Mariam’s husband did not believe them: his wife would have done everything in her power to contact him.
Meanwhile, in response to the official information about the two boats, we launched another search of the morgues in Tangier, Fnideq and Tétouan in Morocco. There was no trace of anyone from the boat that Mariam Cissé was travelling on.
Throughout the month of January, the young woman’s husband continued to receive misinformation, which kept his hopes alive: “Have you ever heard of a boat finding a shipwreck and keeping the passengers with them for some time without telling anyone?” and “I’ve heard that Mariam is in Melilla! Can you check there, please?”, he asked. On 12 January, he received a photo of a body on a beach in Cádiz, which was claimed to be one of Mariam’s travel companions. Several bodies had reached the Spanish coast that week but nobody could confirm which boat they had come from. We sent photographs of Mariam Cissé and several other missing people to the Spanish authorities to check whether the bodies could belong to them. No link was established.
To mark Border Victims’ Day on 6 February, the anniversary of the Tarajal tragedy, Mariam’s husband participated in an audiovisual production by Ca-minando Fronteras to pay tribute to all the victims. To this day, Mariam Cissé remains missing.