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States must act on ‘disappearances’ of migrants

States must act on ‘disappearances’ of migrants, say UN experts

GENEVA (29 August 2019) – Progressively more precarious movements of migrants undertaking long and perilous journeys – often as a result of States’ rigid migratory policies - expose many to heightened risks of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, UN experts* say.

To mark the occasion of International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August, the experts call on States to act urgently to search for migrants who have been subject to enforced disappearances, and to investigate this crime.

“My name is Maria Elena Larios. I am searching for my son. My son’s name is Heriberto Antonio Gonzalez Larios. He was 18 years old when he left, so by now, he is 27 years old. I said bye to him, when he was still at home and since then I have not received any news from him. Some months before his disappearance, he told me he was planning to leave, but I disapproved of his plans because he did not have a destination in mind. I told him that going away was not a good idea as there would be dangerous situations on the journey.”

“Maria Elena’s story is one of the thousands of human tragedies that are today affecting thousands of families of migrants,” the UN experts said.

Noting that disappearances in the context of migration often occur in the framework of detention or deportation processes or as a consequence of smuggling and/or trafficking, the experts stressed that much more needs to be done in terms of prevention, protection, search and investigation into this issue.

“The expulsion, return (refoulement) or extradition of migrants to another State where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would be in danger of enforced disappearance should be prohibited. In accessing this risk, the competent authorities should take into account all relevant information including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights, in accordance with the Convention** and the Declaration***”, they said. This also applies to “pushback” of migrants.

Referring to the Guiding Principles for the Search for the Disappeared Persons, the Acting Chair of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, Mohammed Ayat, said: “Given the particular vulnerability of persons who cross international borders on a regular or occasional basis, especially unaccompanied children, the search for disappeared migrants requires focused procedures, experience and knowledge that meet their particular needs. Respect for the dignity of victims should be a guiding principle at every stage of the search for the disappeared migrant.”

The Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, Bernard Duhaime, said that States should take all necessary measures to search for and locate disappeared migrants by using all means at their disposal, including forensic investigative resources. “States should urgently increase international, regional and bilateral cooperation, given the transnational nature of the enforced disappearance of migrants, both in the search for the migrants and in the prosecution of those presumed responsible,” he said, referring to the last thematic report of the Working Group.

“We reiterate our call to all States that have not yet done so, to expeditiously become parties to the Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearances and to accept the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and examine individual complaints,” the experts said.


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