Through its International Migration Law Unit (IML), IOM works to strengthen and promote the Organization’s involvement in International Migration Law. 

A key objective of the IML Unit is to encourage dissemination and understanding both within IOM and amongst its counterparts of the international legal standards that govern migration and protect the rights of all individuals involved in migration. Thus, the IML Unit promotes migration governance in line with international law, and primarily international human rights.

Although there is not a comprehensive binding instrument at the international level that establishes a framework for the governance of migration, a plethora of international rules govern State authority,  responsibility and obligations, as well as individuals' rights in the field of migration. Such rules – which have been created through State-to-State relations, negotiations and practice – are enshrined in legally binding multilateral and bilateral treaties, as well as non-binding instruments. One of the key instruments among them is the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, a non-binding (soft law) instrument which is anchored in international law, with many objectives that are part of customary international law. It is the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement covering all aspects of international migration.

Recognition of the rights of migrants and the need to respect, protect, fulfill, and promote these rights within the exercise of State sovereignty has been present in IOM’s constituent documents since the Organization’s foundation. The IOM Constitution, IOM Council decisions and policy documents, the 12-point strategy, IOM’s Strategic Vision and Migration Governance Framework (MiGOF), among others, provide a solid basis for the Organization’s work on IML and migration governance in line with international standards and the rule of law.

The IML Unit’s main roles and activities include:

Project development and implementation support: The Unit provides support to IOM missions by serving as a focal point for the development and implementation of IML and IML-related project activities. In addition, the IML Unit provides guidance as well as training on how to apply a rights-based approach (RBA) to IOM programs and projects, in line with supporting Principle 1 of the MiGOF.

Capacity building and training:  The Unit provides training for governments, international organizations, academics, civil society and IOM staff on international migration law. Two regular yearly Training Courses are conducted in:

  • Sanremo – in collaboration with the International Institute of Humanitarian Law (IIHL);
  • Geneva – a four-day Geneva IML Course is designed for government officials, to familiarize them with the relevant international legal framework governing migration, including the responsibilities, obligations and rights of States and migrants.

Other trainings are delivered at the regional and country level as part of IOM projects. If you are interested in planning and inserting an IML national capacity development event in your country, please contact us: iml@iom.int

Legislation and policy review: The Unit assists governments to analyse, develop and implement migration legislation and procedures consistent with applicable international and regional standards. The objective is to further develop the capacity of governments and provide effective tools to govern migration. In this context, the Unit offers advice, good practices and information to governments considering the ratification of relevant international or regional treaties and provides legal consultancy and review of national migration legislation for governments at their request.

Advocacy: The Unit represents IOM in a range of UN committees and cooperates with the agencies working on migrants’ rights and international law

Monitoring: The IML Unit also regularly collaborates with the Human Rights Treaty Bodies, to facilitate the monitoring of the implementation of the core international human rights instruments, with the aim of enhancing their implementation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of migrants.

The IML Unit further collaborates with the Human Rights Council and the  Universal Periodic Review process and contributes to the State-led reviews in the Universal Periodic Review, in coordination with IOM offices and. The Unit also works closely with the Special Procedures and in particular with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.

The IML Unit also collaborates with the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Council and, upon request, has provided its expertise by preparing amicus curiae on specific areas of law.

Research and Publications: The IML Unit conducts research and publishes resources and tools on relevant and important migration law issues. The Unit aims to promote latest research and thinking to support migration governance in line with international law through awareness raising, knowledge and skills development of all actors working in the field of migration.

Information notes