International Migration and Human Rights: Critical Research and Policy Perspectives

Seminar Series Hilary 2013 / Thursdays 14.00 - 15.30, Convened by Martin Ruhs, COMPAS and OUDCE, and Cathryn Costello, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford and COMPAS Associate

Seminar Room, Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford

Back to Events


This seminar series questions the relationship between international migration and human rights commitments. Some migration issues are commonly framed in terms of human rights, such as the protection of refugees, family reunification and the protection of the victims of trafficking. Human rights norms and ideals are also frequently invoked to challenge states’ harsh treatment of migrants, in particular detention, albeit with limited success. Yet, in other contexts, state sovereignty appears to be given great sway, and the connections between international migration and human rights are less apparent.

The series aims to re-examine familiar issues in a new light, and open up new frontiers in the interaction between international migration and human rights.   The series will bring together speakers from a wide range of disciplines (law, politics, economics and sociology) working on the theoretical, normative and empirical dimensions of these issues.

The seminars will address the following (and many other!) questions:

How do human rights commitments constrain and shape states’ policies on different types of international migration? How do human rights commitments limit states’ border control prerogatives, the power to control entry and power to deport?
Why do so few countries ratify the UN's 1990 Convention on the Rights of Migrant workers? What explains the large gap between the rights of migrants stipulated in international human rights law and the rights that most migrants experience in practice?
What are the pitfalls of human rights law and discourse for migrants? Do they serve to legitimate the status quo, masking injustice? Or do they present a transformative opportunity?
Is there a tension between nation states’ openness to labour immigration and the rights that migrant workers are granted after admission? If so, what are the implications for international and national policy debates about labour migration and migrant rights?
How is the notion of 'being illegal' to be reconciled with states' duties to respect and protect the human rights of all on people on their territory?
Does human rights protection inevitably pit courts against democratic legislatures and governments jealous to maintain administrative discretion in immigration policy?   Are judges running amok in protecting migrants from removal? Or should they go further and develop a human right to regularisation? Should security of residence be recognised as a human right?