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Global Migration Centre

Protecting Migrants in Vulnerable Situations: The Principle of Non-Refoulement in International Human Rights Law

Among the millions of migrants worldwide, too many are forced to embark on a dangerous journey because of a combination of intertwined reasons. This project assesses the scope and content of the principle of non-refoulement under international human rights law, focusing on the United Nations core human rights treaties.

Global Migration Centre

Protecting Migrants in Vulnerable Situations: The Principle of Non-Refoulement in International Human Rights Law

About the project

Among the millions of migrants worldwide, too many are forced to embark on a dangerous journey because of a combination of intertwined reasons, such as armed conflicts, poverty, food insecurity, persecution, terrorism, human rights violations, or the adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters and environmental degradation. Those migrants are likely to find themselves in vulnerable situations in destination countries as they are not always eligible for refugee status or other forms of complementary protection. Nonetheless, they are still protected by international human rights law, including the cornerstone principle of non-refoulement.

This principle of international law has been endorsed in a broad range of treaties and other international instruments. Due to this plurality of sources, the prohibition of refoulement has been subjected to various interpretations that undermine its understanding and effective application.

Against such a background, this research project – jointly led by the Global Migration Centre (GMC) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – will assess the scope and content of the principle of non-refoulement under international human rights law, focusing on the United Nations core human rights treaties. Its objective is to provide a coherent frame of interpretation, as well as to enable enhanced protection of migrants in a vulnerable situation and stronger respect for the non-refoulement principle.

Research team

  • Vincent Chetail (GMC), Project Director
  • Pia Oberoi (OHCHR), Project Co-Director
  • Genevieve Sauberli (OHCHR), Researcher
  • Sophie Capicchiano Young, Research Assistant

Publications