The Fatal Flaw in International Law for Migration


There could hardly be a more challenging moment to try to fix the global governance of international migration, or a time when such reform was more pressing. With good reason, international migration has been at the center of global attention, especially where involuntary or forced migrants are concerned—persons whose movement across borders is coerced by conflict, persecution, climate change-related events, and even extreme socio-economic conditions. In a single year, over a million displaced South Sudanese sought refuge in Uganda. Also in a single year over a million Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, Somali, Eritrean, Nigerian and others did the same in Europe by sea, as almost four thousand involuntary migrants drowned along the way. For at least three years a quarter of Lebanon’s population has been Syrian refugees. The desperation of involuntary migrants in contexts such as these is increasingly matched in intensity by opposition to their admission, especially in countries in the global North experiencing resurgent populist nationalism and more general anti-migrant anxiety. On the one hand, the intensity, chaos and inhumanity of recent international displacement has precipitated some notable momentum towards reform of the global governance of international migration. But on the other, it remains unclear whether any of this momentum will ultimately produce meaningful change.

E. Tendayi Achiume, The Fatal Flaw in International Law for Migration, 56 Colum. J. Transnat'l L. 257 (2018).