Migration and Human Rights

An estimated 244 million people currently live outside their country of origin, many having moved for a variety of reasons in which the search for protection and the search for opportunity are inextricably entwined.

While for some migration is a positive and empowering experience, it is increasingly clear that a lack of human rights-based systems of migration governance at the global, regional and national level is creating a human rights crisis for migrants at borders and in the territory of countries of transit and destination.

Migrants, notably those in an irregular situation, tend to live and work in the shadows, afraid to complain, denied rights and freedoms, and disproportionately vulnerable to discrimination, exploitation and marginalization.

Human rights violations against migrants, including denial of access to fundamental rights such as the right to education or the right to health, are often closely linked to discriminatory laws and practice, and to deep-seated attitudes of prejudice and xenophobia against migrants.

OHCHR advocates and works for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their status or circumstance, with a particular focus on those women, men and children who are most marginalized and at risk of human rights violations.

The Office has developed a number of tools to elaborate on the legal framework of protection for migrants, and to support States in fulfilling their obligations in this regard. OHCHR’s Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders seek to ensure that border governance measures are conducted in accordance with international human rights law and other relevant standards. A study on the situation of migrants in transit contains recommendations aimed at addressing critical protection gaps for migrants in transit. Publications on the economic social and cultural rights of migrants in an irregular situation and on promoting and protecting the human rights of migrant domestic workers in an irregular situation offer a rich resource to understand the scope and content of the human rights of migrants in an irregular situation, and details the legal and practical barriers in this regard. Mindful of supporting the voices of migrants, OHCHR released a short documentary film, I Am Not Here, which highlights the situation of undocumented women migrant domestic workers.

A human rights-based approach to migration

A human rights-based approach to migration places the migrant at the center of migration policies and governance, and pays particular attention to the situation of marginalized and disadvantaged groups of migrants. Such an approach will also ensure that migrants are included in relevant national action plans and strategies, such as plans on the provision of public housing or national strategies to combat racism and xenophobia.

Human rights mechanisms, such as the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and the Committee on Migrant Workers, have been clear in stating that although countries have a sovereign right to determine conditions of entry and stay in their territories, they also have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of all individuals under their jurisdiction.

Latest news

More press releases and statements


OHCHR Report to the Human Rights Council on the compendium of principles, good practices and policies on safe, orderly and regular migration in line with international human rights law - A/HRC/36/42

Video: Counter anti-migrant narrative

Joint statement "New European Union returns policies put children at risk"

Statement on "The duties of States towards refugees and migrants under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights"
Advance Unedited Version

Principles and guidelines, supported by practical guidance, on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations within large and/or mixed movements (DRAFT)

OHCHR's report on the promotion and protection of the human rights of migrants in the context of large movements
E (advanced edited version)

High Commissioner's Open Letter: Protecting the human rights of migrants and refugees in large movements

Protecting the human rights of migrants and refugees within large movements

OHCHR Study on the situation of migrants in transit OHCHR's study to the HRC on migrants in transit

Migration, Human Rights and Governance: Handbook for Parliamentarians, OHCHR, IPU, ILO, 2015
English | French (PDF)

Panel discussion on “Promoting tolerance, dispelling myths, protecting rights: an evidence-based conversation on migration”

Amicus brief filed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the case of N.D. and N.T. v Spain in the European Court of Human Rights, 15 November 2015
English (PDF)

Behind Closed Doors: Protecting and Promoting the Human Rights of Migrant Domestic Workers in an Irregular Situation
English (PDF)

Short documentary film: I Am Not Here

International Migrants Day 2013 

OHCHR's Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders

The Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of migrants in an irregular situation

International Migrants Day 2013 

Check out a series of cartoons designed to challenge myths and encourage a positive public perception of migration

Migration and Human Rights: improving human rights-based governance of international migration
E | F | S

International Migration, Health and Human Rights, OHCHR, WHO, IOM, 2013
E l F l S (PDF)