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Many migrants may be victims of enforced disappearance, Türk says

28 September 2023

Delivered by

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


25th session of the Committee on Enforced Disappearance



Launch of the General Comment on enforced disappearances in the context of migration

My greetings to all of you. I very much regret that I cannot be present at the launch of this important General Comment.

Around the world, people on the move suffer a shocking magnitude and range of human rights violations. This is exacerbated by the circumstances in which they travel, especially when using unsafe and irregular channels, and the hostile conditions they can meet in countries of transit and destination.

Many thousands of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees die or disappear in transit every year. According to the IOM Missing Migrants Project, over 58,000 migrants have gone “missing” worldwide since 2014. This is widely understood to be a significant undercount.

And while many of them may be missing at sea ­– victims of a sudden storm, an ill-equipped or overcrowded vessel, or lack of effective search and rescue mechanisms ­– our experience suggests that significant numbers of people on the move are victims of disappearance – abducted, held in secret, enslaved or otherwise mistreated.

Some of them may be victims of enforced disappearance by agents of a State, or with the knowledge or approval of agents of a State.

Disappearances of migrants and others on the move are rarely effectively reported. Diligent, effective searches and investigations of the reported disappearances of migrants and refugees, involving coordination between countries of transit and destination, are also rare.

The lack of systematic data on probable victims of disappearances and enforced disappearances amongst missing migrants – and their disaggregation by sex, age, place of possible disappearance and other key points – also hinders the adoption of policies to address these crimes.

The whole situation fosters impunity, and this further increases the probability that migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees will be disappeared.

The General Comment that the Committee is launching today is highly relevant to States in every world region.

It guides them to measures to address the enforced disappearances, and other grave human rights violations, faced by people travelling across international borders.

If implemented, it will help ensure that victims and their relatives can access justice systems, and thus accountability and redress.

And it will foster greater international cooperation on the prevention, search, and investigation of disappearances of migrants and others on the move, as required under the Convention.

I congratulate you on this important work, and encourage all States to implement the Committee's recommendations as swiftly as possible.