Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on enforced disappearances in the context of migration (A/HRC/36/39/Add.2) [EN/AR]

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Note by the Secretariat

The Secretariat has the honour to transmit to the Human Rights Council the report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on enforced disappearances in the context of migration, submitted in accordance with Council resolution 27/1.

In the report, the Working Group asserts that the phenomenon of enforced disappearance of migrants is a modern-day reality that should urgently be given adequate attention. The increasingly precarious movements of migrants undertaking long, perilous journeys, associated with often increasingly rigid migratory policies of States, have created a situation which exposes them to heightened risks of becoming victims of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances.

As outlined in the report, there is a direct link between migration and enforced disappearance, either because individuals leave their country as a consequence of a threat or risk of being subjected to enforced disappearances there, or because they disappear during their journey or in the country of destination. Disappearances take the form of abduction for political or other reasons, or occur in the context of detention or deportation processes or as a consequence of smuggling and/or trafficking.

The Working Group also analyses the factors that contribute to the enforced disappearances of migrants and outlines States’ obligations in this context, and offers conclusions and recommendations.

The Working Group concludes that States and the international community as a whole do not seem to be giving the necessary attention to this issue. However, owing to both the gravity and the complexity of this phenomenon, it is essential that each State take the problem seriously and, as a matter of priority, strengthen measures to prevent and combat it, both at the national level and — given its transnational character — the international level, through enhanced cooperation with other States as well as relevant international organizations at the regional or global level.

The examples mentioned in the report are drawn from cases received by the Working Group — either outstanding or clarified — that have been included in its reports, other public reports by United Nations agencies or other international organizations, or information received from the experts participating in a meeting held on the sidelines of the Working Group’s 111th session, held in Seoul in February 2017.

Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on enforced disappearances in the context of migration

I. Enforced disappearances in the context of migration

1. Disappearances of migrating individuals in transit and once arrived in the destination countries are increasingly being documented by State institutions, non-governmental organizations and the media.

2. During its 105th session, and in its 2015 annual report, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances announced that it would address diverse forms of enforced disappearances in the context of migration to determine the cause of the problem and to specify the obligations of the States to assist the victims.

3. A number of preliminary observations were already included in its 2016 annual report. On 5 February 2017, an expert meeting was held in Seoul, on the sidelines of the 111th session of the Working Group. In addition, a number of written contributions were received from various stakeholders, including States in response to a questionnaire sent in December 2016. The Working Group is grateful to the experts who participated in the meeting as well as to the States, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and individuals who contributed to this process.

4. The present report focuses on enforced disappearances of persons in the context of migration and also examines other relevant similar practices undertaken by private actors in the context of migration, including acts of human trafficking or smuggling of migrants, which could be tantamount to enforced or involuntary disappearances.

5. While there is no universally recognized definition of the concept of migrant, the Working Group will define it as “any person who is outside a State of which he or she is a citizen or national, or, in the case of a stateless person, his or her State of birth or habitual residence”. Accordingly, for the purpose of the present study, the Working Group considers migrants to encompass asylum seekers and refugees, as well as persons who migrate for economic, labour, climatic or other reasons.

6. The following issues will be analysed hereinafter:

(a) Migration caused by enforced disappearances;
(b) Enforced disappearances of migrants;
(c) Factors contributing to the enforced disappearance of migrants;
(d) State obligations surrounding the enforced disappearance of migrants.