Edited by Gary P. Freeman and Nikola Mirilovic
Chapter 21: Why migrant rights are different than human rights
In 2010, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report detailing abuses of migrant rights in many countries. The range of abuse was astonishing. Migrants can lose their lives. Between January and November 2010, Egyptian border guards shot dead at least 28 migrants who attempted to cross the Sinai border into Israel (HRW 2010). Between 2000 and 2010, India’s Border Security Force killed at least 924 Bangladeshi nationals trying to cross the border between the two countries, according to Odhikar, a Bangladesh human rights monitoring group (HRW 2010). In this chapter, we examine the efforts of migrant rights’ advocates to create international norms to protect migrants and their families. The story is more than a century old, with the earliest international conventions on migrant rights drafted within the International Labour Organization (ILO) in the early twentieth century. However, despite the three major international conventions on migrant worker rights, international cooperation is nominal. Few countries have actually acceded to these conventions. We argue that the opposed interests of sending and receiving states explain the absence of international cooperation on migrant rights. While sending states wish to guarantee migrant rights through international conventions, receiving states are loath to give up the sovereignty such conventions would require.
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