OHCHR publications and resources on migration and human rights

OHCHR has an important knowledge development and dissemination function in relation to migration and human rights issues. Human rights-based policy formulation on migration and its effective implementation is dependent on the availability of relevant, valid and reliable information, international comparative analysis and rigorous monitoring of results and outcomes. OHCHR has produced a range of publications and resources on topics related to migration and human rights, which provide information and policy guidance to Governments, civil society, national human rights institutions and other stakeholders in order to promote greater respect, protection and fulfilment of migrants’ human rights.


Unsafe and Undignified: The forced expulsion of migrants from Libya (2021)


This report sheds light on the widespread risk of expulsions from Libya's external land borders that fail to respect the prohibition of collective expulsion and the principle of non-refoulement. Additionally, the report documents how expulsions from Libya often place migrants in extremely vulnerable situations, including long and perilous return journeys, with migrants being forced to travel on overcrowded vehicles across remote stretches of the Sahara Desert, without adequate safety equipment, food, water and medical care. Despite these risks, the report documents how efforts to strengthen Libya’s external border security among donor governments and international organisations supporting Libya in its stated efforts to “combat illegal migration” are undermining human rights.

Human Rights, Climate Change and Migration in the Sahel (2021)


While the impacts of climate change are indiscriminate, those already in vulnerable situations are at the greatest risk of suffering human rights harms as a result of their adverse effects. These effects are linked to migration both in acting as a potential driver and in affecting experiences of migrants. The Sahel is one of the regions of the world that is already seeing significant and complex linkages between migration and the adverse effects of climate change. After providing a brief overview of the context in the Sahel, this report describes human rights impacts in the context of climate change-related migration. It then articulates some of the key elements of a human rights-based approach to climate change action and migration governance in the Sahel. The report also makes recommendations to States in the region, the international community, and other stakeholders to strengthen laws, policies and practices to protect the human rights of migrants and other climate change-affected communities in the Sahel.

Human Rights at International Borders: A Trainer’s Guide (2021)
(published jointly with the Office of Counter-Terrorism)


International borders can be dangerous places for migrants, particularly for migrants in vulnerable situations. This capacity-building tool seeks to support States and particularly border officials in adopting a human rights-based and gender-responsive approach to border governance. Accompanying presentation slides and course materials have been developed for use in training courses or as a general information resource on the subject.

A Pandemic of Exclusion: The impact of COVID-19 on the human rights of migrants in Libya (2021)


All over the world, the health, economic, and protection crises created by the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately affected those already in situations of vulnerability and marginalization. In many countries, migrants were among those most at risk of experiencing negative impacts of the pandemic on their ability to access the rights to health, decent work, social protection, and to have their freedom of movement and other fundamental human rights guaranteed. In places where the human rights of migrants were already at risk as a result of discrimination, xenophobia, criminalization, poverty, exploitation, trafficking, and armed conflict, COVID-19 multiplied these risks. This report aims to elucidate the main human rights risks that migrants faced and continue to face, primarily in Libya and in some situations of transit to and from Libya during and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic between March 2020 and June 2021.

Lethal Disregard: Search and rescue and the protection of migrants in the central Mediterranean Sea (2021)


This thematic report highlights how concrete policy decisions and practices related to search and rescue (SAR) and the protection of migrants at sea have combined to create an environment where the dignity and human rights of migrants transiting through Libya are at risk. The report expresses concern about a “lethal disregard for desperate people” in this context and urges more determined and effective action to deploy SAR operations, support the work of humanitarian NGOs, and to adopt a common and human rights-based arrangement for the timely disembarkation of all people rescued at sea. The report is part of a wider project by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) seeking to identify, document and analyze human rights violations and protection gaps impacting migrants in Libya and the neighbouring region and to formulate recommendations to relevant governments and other stakeholders, aimed at ensuring compliance with international human rights law and standards.

Seven key elements on building human rights based narratives on migrants and migration (2020)

English | Español

Xenophobic and anti-migrant discourse in the political sphere, the media and public debate has become commonplace. When migrants are criminalized and even dehumanized by policies and rhetoric, the message that is given is that they have no rights, no place in society. The effects of such divisive narratives are wide-reaching within our societies. Along with human rights activists in all regions, OHCHR is mobilizing to counter this rising tide of hate and reframe the narrative around migration, in order to emphasize the human rights values that shape the foundations of our societies. These key elements aim to support States and all stakeholders to building human rights-based migration narratives.

Report of mission to Austria focusing on the human rights of migrants, particularly in the context of return (2018)


In 2018, OHCHR visited Austria in order to assess the human rights situation of migrants, with a particular focus on laws, policies and practice related to the return of migrants to their countries of origin or to third countries. This report explains the key findings and offers recommendations to the Austrian Government to better protect the human rights of migrants in the context of return.

Admission and stay based on human rights and humanitarian grounds: a mapping of national practice (2018)


All migrants, regardless of their migration status, are entitled to the full respect, protection and fulfilment of their human rights. The UN Secretary-General has noted that, notwithstanding the gradual expansion of refugee protection, many people are compelled to leave their homes for reasons that do not fall within the 1951 definition of a refugee. Where migrants in situations of vulnerability fall outside the specific legal category of “refugee”, care must be taken to ensure that their human rights are nevertheless respected, protected and fulfilled. In collaboration with DLA Piper Law Firm, the Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) and the Center for Human Rights and Citizenship of the Immigrant (CDHIC), OHCHR has undertaken a mapping project to better understand existing mechanisms for admission and stay based on human rights or humanitarian protection grounds.

Slow onset effects of climate change and human rights protection for cross-border migrants (2018)

English | Español

There is now widespread recognition that the impacts of climate change adversely affect the enjoyment of human rights. There is also increasing interest in the connection between climate change and human mobility, and the role human rights law plays in addressing this connection. In this study, OHCHR in collaboration with the Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD) seek to advance understanding of the connection between the slow onset adverse effects of climate change, human rights, and the cross-border movement of people in order to promote informed actions to protect the rights of those affected.

Principles and guidelines on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations (2018)

العربية | English

While migration can be a positive and empowering experience for many, it is clear that movement that places people in precarious situations is a serious human rights concern. Many people on the move today fall outside legal protection categories but are nonetheless in need of specific human rights protection interventions. Migrants may find themselves in vulnerable situations because of the situations they left behind, the circumstances in which they travel or the conditions they face on arrival, or because of personal characteristics such as their age, gender identity, disability or health status. OHCHR, working with other UN partners, has led the development of this guidance to provide advice to States and other stakeholders on how they should implement their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of migrants who may not qualify as refugees, yet who are in vulnerable situations and thus in need of the protection of the international human rights framework.

In search of dignity: report on the human rights of migrants at Europe's borders (2018)

English | English (Summary)

During 2016, OHCHR dispatched monitoring missions to transit and border sites in Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and France in order to examine and identify the human rights challenges and protection gaps faced by migrants in these locations. This report summarises the common concerns identified by OHCHR throughout the countries visited, as well as the recommendations provided to the countries visited and to the European Union to better protect the human rights of all migrants.

Desperate and dangerous: the human rights situation of migrants and refugees in Libya (2018)


Published jointly by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and OHCHR, this report describes patterns of serious human rights violations and abuses suffered by migrants in Libya at the hands of both State and non-State actors. It traces the entire journey of migrants through Libya, which is marred by considerable risks of serious human rights violations and abuses at every step of the way. The report further provides recommendations to the Libyan authorities, the European Union and its Member States, the UN entities and other international actors working in Libya, and to countries of origin.

Situation of migrants in transit (2016)

English | Français | Español| Other

The lack of a human rights-based response to migration is resulting in greater risks for migrants in transit and leading to death, injuries and other human rights violations. This report seeks to analyse the human rights situation of migrants in transit, highlighting human rights concerns as well as the relevant normative framework. It contains recommendations aimed at addressing critical protection gaps for migrants in transit, noting also that the lack of research and data on the human rights situation of migrants in transit is a major obstacle to the formulation of effective and sustainable policy responses. Also see, A/HRC/31/35

Detained and dehumanised: human rights abuses against migrants in Libya (2016)

العربية | English

Published jointly by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and OHCHR, this report summarizes information on the human rights situation of migrants in Libya, including on abuses and violations of international human rights law, committed in the course of 2016. The report is based on information gathered primarily in the course of the human rights monitoring activities. The report further proposes immediate and mid-term recommendations, with a view to addressing this situation in a manner which is both comprehensive and human rights-based.

Migration, human rights and governance: handbook for Parliamentarians (2015)

English | Français | Español

This handbook, published jointly by OHCHR, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), provides a step-by-step overview of the conditions, issues, tools and policy responses regarding international migration that parliamentarians need to understand to effectively carry out their responsibilities for ensuring the protection of the rights of migrants and the governance of international migration under the rule of law.

Behind closed doors: protecting and promoting the human rights of migrant domestic workers in an irregular situation (2015)


Around the world more than 50 million people, many of them women, are domestic workers. Of these, a significant number are migrants, including migrants who are in an irregular situation. This publication sheds light on the often hidden experience of irregular migrant domestic workers, and provides recommendations for Governments to take appropriate protective measures. It emphasizes that migrant domestic workers, regardless of migration status, are entitled to all fundamental human rights, without discrimination of any kind.

Recommended principles and guidelines on human rights at international borders (2014)

العربية | English | Français | Español

International borders are not zones of exclusion or exception for human rights obligations. States are entitled to exercise jurisdiction at their international borders, but they must do so in light of their human rights obligations. This tool is the result of wide-ranging expert consultations to draw up normative guidelines on the governance of international borders. They are intended to inform the work of States, international organizations and other stakeholders with an interest in human rights-based border governance.

The economic, social, and cultural rights of migrants in an irregular situation (2014)


Many migrants, particularly those who are in an irregular situation, tend to live and work in the shadows, afraid to complain, denied rights and freedoms that we take for granted, and disproportionately vulnerable to discrimination and marginalization. Through a specific focus on economic, social and cultural rights, this publication seeks to challenge common assumptions about the entitlement of migrants in an irregular situation to such fundamental human rights as the right to health, to education, to an adequate standard of living, to social security, and to just and favourable conditions of work.

Improving human rights-based governance of international migration (2014)

English | Français | Español

In order to promote a strong focus on the human rights of migrants, the Secretary General tasked OHCHR, in consultation with  UN System partners, to prepare a concise analytical report on migration and human rights. This report has been prepared in accordance with that mandate.

International migration, health and human rights (2013)

English | Français | Español

The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health has long been established in international human rights law. So, too, have the principles of equality and non-discrimination. It is therefore critical for national health systems and policies to address migrants’ right to health, regardless of the legal status of the migrant. Doing so requires active collaboration across the different sectors and close cooperation between governments and the many non-state actors involved in the migration process. This publication, published jointly by OHCHR, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), explores the multifaceted health and human rights challenges that migrants face and reports on recent developments in this area.

Other Resources

  • Toolbox: Toolbox on migration narrative change (2020) English
  • Guidance: COVID-19 and the human rights of migrants (2020) العربية | 中文 | English | Français | Русский | Español | Portuguese
  • Technical note: Migrants and refugees (2018) English
  • Technical note: What we mean by protection (2018) English
  • Technical note: Regular and irregular migrants (2018) English
  • Technical note: The rights of irregular migrants (2018) English
  • Technical note: Access to services and protection of economic, social and cultural rights (2018) English
  • Technical note: Criminalisation of irregular immigration (2018) English
  • Technical note: The principle of non-refoulement under international human rights law (2018) English
  • Amicus brief: filed in the case of Raoufi and others v Greece before the European Court of Human Rights (2016) English
  • Amicus brief: filed in the case of N.D. and N.T. v Spain before the European Court of Human Rights (2015) English
  • Paper: Human rights indicators for migrants and their families(2015) English | Français | Español (Summary/overview)
  • Amicus brief: filed in the case of Hirsi Jamaa and others v. Italy before the European Court of Human Rights (2011) English (Word)
  • Leaflet: Public perceptions, migration and human rights (2011) English
  • Fact sheet 24: The International Convention on Migrant Workers and its Committee (Rev.1)(2005) العربية | 中文 | English | Français | Español