The death of Richard Okorogheye among other young Black people has sparked a discussion about the numbers of minorities who are going missing.
Campaigners are working to spread awareness about the increased rates of missing Black people. In fact, Black people have accounted for 14% of missing people in England and Wales between 2019 and 2020. This is four times their relative population.
Recent missing people include Richard Okorogheye, Blessing Olusegun, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman. However, these cases saw much less attention from the media and the authorities than cases involving white people.
Campaigners told The Independent of their personal experiences of losing loved ones and dealing with the authorities.
The mother of Richard Okorogheye, Evidence Joel, previously explained how the police reacted to her missing son:
“I told a police officer that my son was missing, please help me find him, and she said, ‘If you can’t find your son, how do you expect police officers to find your son for you?’”
Mina Smallman, Nicole and Bibaa’s mother, also had issues with getting the police to investigate the disappearance of her children:
“I think the notion of ‘all people matter’ is absolutely right, but it’s not true. Other people have more kudos in this world than people of colour,” Ms Smallman recently told the BBC. “My girls and Sarah (Everard) – they didn’t get the same support, the same outcry.”
A Black Lives Matter spokesperson told The Independent:
“The media has dedicated years of coverage to the story of Madeleine McCann, and the police have spent nearly £12m on ‘Operation Grange’, in the hopes of finding her. Meanwhile, few members of the British public have heard of Aamina Khan or Elizabeth Ogungbayibi. All disappearances and deaths are tragic – yet the media and the police do not treat them as if they are.”
The mother of Joy Morgan also saw stated: “Because my daughter was black and because I was black I was not newsworthy.”
A mother who did not want to be named discussed how the media discusses topics connected to Black People:
“All the focus has been on knife crime. The government should’ve done a big public information appeal about trafficking, highlighting the fact that Black boys are disproportionately more likely to go missing.”
What can be done?
The woman who did not want to be named suggested that the way the topic is approached could be changed:
“There should be adverts on television, regular missing appeals every month, billboards, information in schools; oftentimes children are going missing straight from the school gates.”
“In America, Black children are more likely go missing. This a widely known fact, they appear to be more open about it but why is the disparity covered up here in the UK?”
“It sounds awful but I think the only time that government minister will take this matter seriously is when one of their own children goes missing.”
A National Crime Agency spokesperson has responded to these campaigners. They stated:
“Individuals from some ethnic minority groups remain over-represented among missing persons reports. While those who go missing can be driven to do so by individual circumstances, UK Missing Persons Unit initiated work with academia in late 2020 in order to seek an increased understanding of the potential reasons for minority over-representation.”
“This work will remain ongoing throughout 2021.”
The campaigners and the public will undoubtedly hope this is the case. Particularly, after the tragic deaths that have occurred at a high frequency in recent years.
Our thoughts are with the families of those impacted by this issue.
Images via Alamy