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

by Bill Frelick, Ian M. Kysel, Jennifer Podkul

Executive Summary

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. Perversely, countries that have developed generally rights-sensitive standards and procedures for assessing protection claims of asylum seekers within their jurisdictions have simultaneously established barriers that prevent migrants, including asylum seekers, from setting foot on their territories or otherwise triggering protection obligations. Consequently, those who would otherwise have been able to avail themselves of asylum procedures, social support, and decent reception conditions are often relegated to countries of first arrival or transit that have comparatively less capacity to ensure protection of human rights in accordance with international standards.

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.


ISSN 2330-2488 (Online), 2331-5024 (Print)  © 2017 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York

Journal on Migration and Human Security: a publication of The Center for Migration Studies of New York
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