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Migrants face inordinate threats to their basic human rights. The odds for migrants are not good; between 2014 and 2022, more than 50,000 fatalities were reported on migratory routes worldwide, according to the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project (the IOM notes this is likely a minimum estimate of the total number of deaths, as most go unrecorded). Migrants also face an inordinate risk that their basic human rights will be violated - those traveling along the so-called “Western Mediterranean” route leading from Morocco and Algeria to Spain, for example, have been the victims of human rights violations including physical abuse, trafficking, and forced labour, according to the IOM’s World Migration Report 2020. In addition, migrant workers in Southeast Asia who are employed in the fishing, agriculture, and construction industries have been subjected to the threat of forced labour, according to the report. People migrating for safety and protection reasons are especially vulnerable. In South Sudan, for example, many migrants have been targeted for human rights abuses based on their ethnicity or presumed political allegiances, according to a report published by the UN Refugee Agency. The work of governments seeking to address migrant rights has been complicated by the proliferation of non-state actors. In addition, real and perceived increases in irregular migration have been further diminishing migrants’ rights, while some states have not met their obligations to fully respect the fundamental human rights of migrants at all times. In 2017, for example, the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers heard statements from non-governmental organizations from Indonesia about failures to protect Indonesian female domestic workers from abuse and exploitation in destination countries. The committee also heard statements from civil society representatives from Mexico, who described institutions in that country as being very weak - leading to serious human rights abuses including the criminalization and prosecution of migrants which restricts their access to justice and health care. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, migrants faced significant new threats to their human rights throughout the entire migration cycle, from an inability to cross borders to seek asylum, to heightened racism and discrimination in host countries - directed in particular at Asian migrants.

Migrant Rights


Increasing significance of migration