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 21: Subsidiary protection and other alternative forms of protection

Hemme Battjes

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


The terms 'subsidiary' and 'complementary' protection are of relatively recent origin, but the type of protection they refer to was already alluded to during the drafting of the Refugee Convention. For the drafters of the Refugee Convention were fully aware of the fact that the instrument did not cover all persons who may be in need of protection. For example, as one representative observed, victims of 'natural disasters' or 'war' would not satisfy the nexus requirement. Accordingly, the Final Act of the Conference of Plenipotentiaries expressed the hope that the Contracting States would extend Refugee Convention protection to persons 'not … covered by the terms of the Convention'. This call received some response. In 1969, on the initiative of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) a convention was adopted that extended the refugee definition to persons who had to flee 'owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order'. Likewise, the Cartagena Declaration urged the Member States of the Organization of American States to extend refugee protection to persons who fled 'because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order'. It appears that a similar approach to protection needs not covered by the Refugee Convention prevailed until the 1980s in most other jurisdictions, including European ones. But since the mid-1980s, alternative forms of protection have been developed.

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