The Impact of Externalization of Migration Controls on the Rights of Asylum Seekers and Other Migrants

by Bill Frelick (Human Rights Watch), Ian M. Kysel (ACLU of Southern California), and Jennifer Podkul (Kids in Need of Defense)


Wars, conflict, and persecution have forced more people to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere than at any time since the end of World War II. As displaced people and other migrants increasingly move out of the conflict-ridden and less developed regions of their displacement and into relatively rich and stable regions of the world, the countries of destination are increasingly working to contain and even stem the migration flow before it reaches their shores. This paper seeks to develop a working definition of the externalization of migration controls and how such externalization of the border implicates the human rights of migrants, and asylum seekers in particular. Although the majority of those migrants seeking legal protections stay in countries neighboring their own, hundreds of thousands continue their journeys in search of protection and stability in more distant states, including in the European Union, the United States, and Australia. In response to the significant increase in asylum seekers arriving at their borders, all three entities have significantly increased deterrence measures with the hopes of keeping new arrivals from entering. This paper will thus highlight a number of the most troubling externalization strategies used by the European Union, the United States, and Australia. Finally, because rights-threatening externalization law, policies, and practices implicate the international legal responsibility of the destination states pursuing them, the paper will conclude by presenting recommendations that could strengthen protection of human rights in the context of state actions seeking to manage migration.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14240/jmhs.v4i4.68