Table of Contents

Research Handbook on International Law and Migration

Research Handbook on International Law and Migration

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Vincent Chetail and Céline Bauloz

Migration is a complex and multifaceted issue, and the current legal framework suffers from considerable ambiguity and lack of cohesive focus. This Handbook offers a comprehensive take on the intersection of law and migration studies and provides strategies for better understanding the potential of international legal norms in regulating migration. Authoritative analyses by the most renowned and knowledgeable experts in the field focus on important migration issues and challenge the current normative framework with new ways of thinking about the topic.

Chapter 3: Extraterritorial migration control and the reach of human rights

Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen

Subjects: development studies, migration, law - academic, human rights, public international law, politics and public policy, human rights, social policy and sociology, migration, urban and regional studies, migration


On 24 May 1992 President George Bush ordered the United States (US) Coast Guard to stop all persons fleeing Haiti following the overthrow of Jean-Baptiste Aristide the year before. In the following years more than 65,000 persons were interdicted on the high seas and immediately returned to Haiti with no assessment of any claims for political asylum. Since then, schemes to install migration control extraterritorially have rapidly expanded around the world. Within the last two decades Australia, the US, and a range of European countries have all engaged in stopping boat migrants and refugees either on the high seas or in foreign territorial waters, jet-age asylum-seekers by declaring e.g. airports 'international zones' and irregular migrants crossing land borders by entering bilateral agreements to exercise migration control on the territory of neighbouring States. This move towards extraterritorialization constitutes one of the most striking features in the development of migration policies across both developed and less developed countries. Migration control has traditionally focused strictly on the territorial border as the natural sovereign delineation and expression of state authority. While high sea interdiction and overseas immigration officers have far from replaced traditional border control, one thing seems safe to conclude: today, the classical dictum that a State's executive power is to be confined within the scope of its territorial borders can no longer be asserted with the same rigour.

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