From migration crisis to migrants’ rights crisis: The centrality of sovereignty in the EU approach to the protection of migrants’ rights
The long-simmering process of sidelining and side-stepping migrants’ rights protection whileattempting to regulate cross-border movement of people was heated up by the 2015 migration crisis and has recently been brought to the boil with the crisis-fuelled adoption of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in 2018. The GCM represents an endorsement at the international level of soft-law, goal-setting frameworks for international cooperation on migration as it pertains to migrants’ rights, and a corresponding disavowal of any role for binding legal obligations in this field. Focusing on the EU, I argue in this article that states’ sovereign powers in the realm of control of non-EU migration have been largely undiluted by the development of the international system of human rights protection. I show how the 2015 migration crisis galvanised multilateral international cooperation on the part of the EU and its member states in the field of non-EU migration in a way that entrenched EU states’ sovereign self-interest by institutionalising a soft-law approach, thereby producing a crisis from the perspective of migrants’ rights protection. I also argue, however, that the migration crisis facilitated a resurgence of state sovereignty in the EU to the detriment not only of migrants’ rights, but also of internal EU cooperation and coordination. Finally, I suggest that in times of crisis supranational courts are particularly susceptible to being recruited to EU states’ rights-restrictive approach to international migration.
Author affiliationSchool of Law
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