Migrant rights

Last updated on 6 October 2021

Under international law, migrants have rights by virtue of their humanity. International human rights instruments, or treaties and documents such as declarations, are of general application and therefore apply to migrants. There are also a number of international instruments that specifically intend to address the protection of migrants. In addition, recent attention has been drawn to the obligations of states, under international human rights law, towards dead and missing migrants (Grant, 2016).

Migrant rights may be evaluated by measuring the rights granted to migrants in principle or in practice. The former is relatively straightforward and looks at international and regional treaty ratifications and countries’ legal documents to protect migrants, while the latter requires looking at implementation of rights, or if migrants’ rights are actually upheld and exercised. Measuring the rights granted to migrants in practice is limited by a lack of data, information, resources, and the large number of rights relevant to migrants. 

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