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UN calls on member states to act on disappeared migrants

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The growing number of migrants undertaking perilous journeys – often as a result of rigid immigration policies – make them more vulnerable to human rights violations, including enforced disappearances.

To mark the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances today, experts from the United Nations called on member states to act urgently and search for migrants who have been disappeared.

The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances issued a joint statement calling on responsible governments to show the political will to investigate such crimes.

Noting that these disappearances often happen during detention or deportation, or as a consequence of trafficking, the experts stressed that much more needs to be done in terms of prevention, protection, search and investigation.

“The expulsion and repatriation 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," the statement read.

"In assessing the 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."

Referring to the guiding principles for the Search for the Disappeared Persons, acting committee chairperson 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.”

Bernard Duhaime, the chair-rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, said that governments should take the necessary measures to 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.

The experts called on member states to become parties to the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and to accept the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to examine individual complaints.

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