At the frontiers of state responsibility: Socio-economic rights and cooperation on migration

Annick Pijnenburg

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

Public summary
At the Frontiers of State Responsibility:
Socio-economic Rights and Cooperation on Migration
Annick Pijnenburg

Rich sponsor states like European states, the USA and Australia make deals with neighbouring partner states to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching their territory. As a result, many people on the move stay in low- and middle-income countries such as Turkey, Libya, Nauru, Indonesia, Mexico and Guatemala, where they often have no access to adequate housing, schools, hospitals and work. This raises the question of who is responsible for their plight. Yet existing studies on migration deals focus on more ‘traditional’ rights such as the right to life and the prohibition of torture. Therefore, this thesis answers the following question: who is responsible for violations of socio-economic rights of people on the move affected by migration deals? It does so in three steps.

First, sponsor states cooperate in various ways with partner States to prevent people on the move from reaching their territories, for instance by providing money, boats and scanners and by training their border guards, or rewarding countries that cooperate with development aid. As a result, people on the move often live in difficult conditions in partner states. For instance, they do not live in decent housing, children cannot attend school, they cannot go to hospital and they are exploited at work.

Second, the thesis clarifies the obligations that states have under human rights treaties towards people on the move who are affected by migration deals. The partner states that host people on the move have the primary obligation to make sure they live in decent conditions. They must use their maximum available resources, including assistance from the international community, to realise in priority the minimum core levels of the rights to an adequate standard of living, health and education. European states, the USA and Australia, in turn, have two types of obligations. On the one hand, if it is reasonably foreseeable that migration deals will lead to violations of the socio-economic rights of people on the move, they must take reasonable measures to avoid these violations. On the other hand, they must sometimes also provide international assistance and cooperation to partner states in order to help them realise the socio-economic rights of people on the move.

Third, the thesis answers the responsibility question above. Partner states that host people on the move are responsible if they are able but unwilling to improve the plight of people on the move. Sponsor states could be responsible in three different scenarios:
1) if they do not take reasonable measures to avoid reasonably foreseeable violations;
2) if they do not provide international assistance and cooperation to partner states; and
3) if they aid or assist a partner state in violating the socio-economic rights of people on the move.

Finally, by combining the responsibility of partner and sponsor states, depending on the situation, it is possible for several states to be responsible, for a single State to be responsible, or for no state to be responsible for violations of socio-economic rights of people on the move affected by migration deals.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Tilburg University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Rijken, Conny, Promotor
  • Gammeltoft-Hansen, Thomas, Promotor, External person
Award date19 May 2021
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-1-83970-148-1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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