IOM: Migrants Must Fully Benefit from Protection under International Law

Switzerland - IOM has called upon the international community to address the current migrant rights deficit, highlighting the fact that migrants do not adequately benefit from the protection granted to them under international law.

Kristina Touzenis, Head of the International Migration Law Unit at IOM made the call today, when she spoke as a panelist at the Human Rights Council’s annual thematic discussion on technical cooperation and capacity-building in the field of human rights, convened by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Meeting every year since 2011 and attracting a wide audience of State delegations and human rights organizations, the discussion explores ways to further integrate human rights into national and international migration governance.

Touzenis suggested that the migrant rights deficit contravenes the fact that rights are due to migrants. Speaking of the international instruments from which these rights derive Touzenis said:  “Whilst their implementation may be progressive in some cases and we may need to focus our attention on how best to implement them in meaningful ways, let us never voice doubt that the rights found in these negotiated outcomes are due to the individuals concerned; that would be legally faulty.”

Emphasizing the need to ensure migration governance is set within the framework of the rule of law derived from international legal frameworks, Touzenis said, “The rules of law, as it is based in international standards and anchored in national legislation should be a safeguard for all of us – no matter where we are from or where we are.” She added that any kind of governance which fails to do so is not only likely to not meet its objectives but is counter-intuitive to realizing the full benefits of migration.

In recent months migration has been framed as a security concern further challenging the realization and extension of rights to migrants. On the rights-security nexus, Touzenis said, “Respect for and enforcements of rights – for everyone – is at times portrayed as opposed to security and opposed to law enforcement. The reality of the matter is that law enforcement is supposed to protect our rights – for all of us – and that if our rights are not protected we are taking the first important step towards undermining law and order and the Rule of Law.”

Debunking the juxtaposition of people as either ‘deserving’ of protection or not deserving as a notion without foundation in international rights regimes, she pointed out that “No person is more ‘deserving’ of protection or of being safe, warm and fed than others. We in this room do not have our rights respected because we deserve it – but because we are right holders as human beings.”

Any discussion of ‘deserving’ of protection implies an opposite ‘underserving’ which goes fundamentally against the values and principles of not only human rights but also humanity, she added.

Chaired by the President of the Human Rights Council, Choi Kyonglim, the high-level panel also exchanged views on how State obligations under international law can be taken into account in devising national migration policies and responding to current migration realities. The panel honed in on particular aspects of migrant rights addressing issues such as the social inclusion of migrants, the goals of a national migration policy, and improving the lives of migrants.

For further information, please contact Kristina Touzenis, IOM Geneva, Tel: +41 22 717 9242, Email: