Moving beyond refugees and migrants: Reconceptualising the rights of people on the move

Conny Rijken, Annick Pijnenburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The two Global Compacts on Migration and on Refugees, adopted in December 2018, reflect public and policy discourse and international legal norms in differentiating between “refugees” and “migrants”. Yet, in a context of mixed migration flows, where migrants and refugees move along the same routes and are, for all but legal purposes, indistinguishable, it can be questioned to what extent distinctions in law are adequate. This essay challenges the dichotomy between “refugees” and “migrants” and instead refers to “people on the move” as an overarching category including a wider range of human mobility for whom there needs to be a basic standard of protection. More specifically, the essay argues we should broaden our analysis to include the rights of people on the move. We thus make an attempt at conceptualizing and delineating the rights of people on the move, anchored in a human rights approach, and pay particular attention to those rights that are the most relevant, namely their mobility rights, safety and dignity rights, and legal protection rights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-293
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Postcolonial Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Global Compact on refugees
  • human rights
  • mixed migration
  • people on the move


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