Human Rights framework

Universal Declaration of Human Rights © United Nations All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act
Towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth
In this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as
Race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion,
National or social origin, property, birth or other status. […]

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 1 and 2
UN General Assembly, 10 December 1948


Existing legal instruments provide a comprehensive legal framework for the governance of international migration. Well-defined rules address the treatment of a range of migrants including, among others: migrant women, men, children, refugees, stateless persons, migrant workers, and migrant victims of trafficking.

The bodies of international law which provide the basis for national migration laws, policies and practice include: international human rights law, international labour law and standards, international refugee law, international criminal law, international humanitarian law, international consular law, and international maritime law.

International human rights law

International human rights law (IHRL) lays down obligations which States are bound to respect. Unlike other bodies of law, which may only apply to specific groups or situations, international human rights law applies to all people at all times. This includes not only a State’s own citizens, but everyone within the State’s jurisdiction or effective control. This means that all migrants, regardless of their status, are entitled to the same international human rights as everyone else.

International human rights law is founded upon the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which, together with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), forms part of the “International Bill of Human Rights”.

Other international human rights instruments, adopted since 1945, provide additional specific legal protections applying equally to migrants. In total, there are 9 core international human rights instruments. Each of these instruments has a corresponding treaty body, a committee of independent experts who monitor implementation of the treaty provisions by its States parties. This includes, among others, the Committee on Migrant Workers which monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW).

Additionally, the special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. These include, among others, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants.

Through its support to States and to these various human rights mechanisms, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) helps ensure compliance of migration laws and policies with States’ international human rights obligations.