efe-epaPatricia Pernas Antigua, Guatemala

One of the vice chairs of the United Nations' Committee on Enforced Disappearances said time is of the essence in locating migrants who are missing.

Maria Clara Galvis therefore is calling on countries worldwide to act quickly and coordinate their efforts when these situations arise.

"In many countries, authorities tend to wait ... 24 hours, 36 hours or 72 hours to start looking for a person reported as missing, and it turns out that those hours are crucial in finding the person," the Colombian expert said in an interview with EFE in the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala.

She attended an international workshop there this week that was organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross and served as a starting point for a global plan to prevent enforced disappearances and locate missing persons.

Galvis recalled that her committee recently published guidelines for the search for disappeared persons - thousands of individuals worldwide who could become victims of people trafficking, forced labor or slavery - that are based on respect for human dignity, inter-governmental cooperation and the need for a comprehensive strategy.

That document made special mention of migrants since they are highly vulnerable when they cross borders legally or illegally, with unaccompanied minors at particular risk.

It therefore calls on both source and destination countries to adopt specific search mechanisms that take into account the difficult situations of migrants and which fully adhere to international norms concerning the non-return of migrants to a country where he or she would face a real risk of persecution or other serious human rights violations.

"In this migration context, coordination among authorities and an immediate response and search are crucial in increasing the possibility of finding missing people," said the professor and scholar at the Universidad Externado de Colombia's Constitutional Law Department.

But she added that the participation of family members and others close to the victim also is another key factor in this process.

In that regard, Galvis said it is essential that there be "full contact with families," who are the ones with first-hand knowledge about what has happened to their loved ones.

"In many cases, not necessarily out of bad faith but due to bureaucratic inertia, action is taken without all these aspects being taken into account, without access to the crucial information that family members possess, without the precise information and without adequate resources," she said.

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