Human rights of migrants

Human rights of migrants, including vulnerable groups such as women, children, and migrants in an irregular situation

Migrants whose rights are protected are able to live in dignity and security and, in turn, are better able to contribute to society both economically and socially than those who are exploited, marginalised and excluded.  While all migrants can be vulnerable to human rights violations, those who are in an irregular situation can be particularly vulnerable to discrimination, exclusion, exploitation and abuse at all stages of the migration process. In 2010, the Global Migration Group (GMG) expressed its deep concern about the situation of this particularly vulnerable group of migrants, noting that the irregular situation in which international migrants may find themselves should not deprive them either of their humanity or of their human rights.

Human rights norms and standards can be powerful programmatic and methodological tools for action. Accordingly, core international human rights instruments constitute a framework of action as well as a set of guidelines for migration policy-makers. There are a number of good practice examples in different regions of the world as to how national and local governments can fulfill their obligations under human rights law, such as decriminalizing irregular migration, or ensuring that the functions of public service providers such as nurses or teachers are kept strictly separate from those of the immigration authorities.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins with a recognition of the “inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” Human rights law thus provides that in general, all persons, without discrimination, must have access to all fundamental human rights with narrow limitations related to political rights and freedom of movement. States are further obliged to ensure that any differential treatment, between citizens and non-citizens or among different groups of non-citizens, is undertaken in a non-discriminatory manner, that is, for a legitimate objective, and that the course of action taken to achieve this objective is proportionate and reasonable. A human rights approach to migration places the migrant at the centre of migration policies and management, and pays particular attention to the situation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups of migrants. Such an approach will also ensure that migrants are included in relevant national action plans and strategies, such as plans on the provision of public housing or national strategies to combat racism and xenophobia.


Thank you for your interest in the Global Migration Group.

Please be advised that following extensive system-wide consultations and the proposal by the UN Deputy Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration, the UN Secretary-General decided, at a meeting of the Executive Committee on 23 May 2018, to establish a UN Network on Migration, as a successor to the Global Migration Group, to ensure effective, coordinated system-wide support to the implementation of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.


The UN Network on Migration can be contacted via its Secretariat at