This module is a resource for lecturers


Module 2 provides an overview of the protection and assistance afforded to smuggled migrants under international law, including the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants), together with international human rights and refugee law instruments. It emphasizes the fact that, despite not being nationals or citizens of the country they are present in, smuggled migrants benefit from numerous rights which States are obligated to ensure and protect. The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants needs to be interpreted in line with human rights norms, given that most State Parties are also parties to the key human rights treaties and that several norms are customary law (notably the non-refoulement principle). Smuggled migrants do not loose human rights because of their migration status. Said in the words of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): "all human beings have all human rights", with the the exception of the right to take part in political affairs, which only citizens have. The Module further clarifies the "positive" and "negative" nature of States' human rights obligations, the importance of identification and first response measures in protecting smuggled migrants, assistance in relation to participation in legal proceedings, and the role of civil society. It concludes by observing that measures to improve protection of smuggled migrants may be carried out in the short, mid, and long term.

The topics explored in this Module should be complemented with regional and or national insights, as appropriate and according to the place of teaching (see the Teaching Guide on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants).

Learning outcomes

  • Identify the rights of smuggled migrants
  • Understand States' obligations in relation to smuggled migrants' protection
  • Understand the special needs of vulnerable groups in the context of assistance and protection
  • Comprehend the importance of effective identification procedures in ensuring appropriate assistance to and protection of smuggled migrants
  • Recognize the role of civil society in the provision of assistance to, and the protection of, smuggled migrants
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