The limits of migration-related human rights

Connecting exploitation to immobility

Authored by: Sanja Milivojevic , Marie Segrave , Sharon Pickering

The Routledge International Handbook of Criminology and Human Rights

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138931176
eBook ISBN: 9781315679891
Adobe ISBN: 9781317395553


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The increased desire for cross-border mobility in the age of globalization is well documented in contemporary social science research (see works of Pickering, Weber, Aas, Bosworth, Wonders and others). Within this context, however, the opportunities for safe and/or regulated 1 transnational mobility have been limited and largely bifurcated along lines of privilege whereby (generally) those from rich, western nations who have social and economic capital travel the most freely. Conversely, those from the least desirable nations, who have little or no social or economic capital are prevented or discouraged from travelling (see Bauman 1998, Adey 2009, Wolff 1993, Kaufmann 2002). As a consequence, the desire for mobility and access to regulated migration routes is no more than a mere aspiration for many (Aas 2007, Bowling and Sheptycki 2015). Nonetheless transnational mobility remains achievable, albeit via undocumented means and irregular routes. 2 Indeed it is estimated that undocumented migrants total at least 50 million of the world’s 232 million international migrants (International Organization for Migration 2014, p. 4). Arguably undocumented migrants are more likely than their documented counterparts to exist at the fringes of society; marginalized, exploited, silenced and violated in countries of origin, transit and destination. This vulnerability can be attributed in large part to the role of the state in creating and sustaining conditions via law and policy, which limit regular migration opportunities and seek to punish irregular migrants. Our focus is to consider how individual harms that can be linked to the broader legal and political infrastructure, may be sustained in spite of international treaties and human rights obligations.

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