International Migration Law

The International Migration Law Unit was established within IOM to strengthen and promote the Organization’s involvement in International Migration Law (IML).

A key objective of the Unit is to encourage dissemination and understanding both within IOM and amongst IOM counterparts of the international legal standards that govern migration and provide protection of the rights of individuals involved in migration. The Unit thereby promotes migration governance within the rule of law.

Although there is no comprehensive legal instrument at the international level that establishes a framework for the governance of migration, a set of legal rules constrain, regulate, and channel state authority over migration. Such rules – which have been created through state- to-state relations, negotiations and practice – are enshrined in multilateral and bilateral treaties, non-binding instruments, or have become part of customary international law. Recognition of the rights of migrants and the need for the promotion and protection of these rights in the exercise of state sovereignty has been present in IOM’s constituent documents since the Organization’s foundation. The IOM Constitution, certain Council decisions and policy documents provide the basis for IOM’s involvement in promoting IML as part of its comprehensive migration management frameworks.

The IML Unit’s main roles and activities include:

Policy and Programming Support: The unit provides support to IOM missions. It coordinates, facilitates and serves as a focal point for the development and implementation of IML and IML related  project activities. In particular, the unit  provides guidance and input (as well as trainings) on how to apply a rights-based approach to projects in line with supporting Principle 1 of the Migration Governance Framework (MiGOF).

Capacity Building Activites: The Unit provides training and workshops for government officials, international organizations, academics, civil societies and IOM staff on international migration law.

Two yearly Training Courses are conducted in:

  • Sanremo – in collaboration with the International Institute of Humanitarian Law (IIHL);
  • Geneva – a four-day Geneva IML Course is designed for government officials, to familiarize them with the relevant international legal framework governing migration, including the rights and responsibilities of States and migrants.

Other trainings are delivered at the regional and country level upon request.

If you are interested in organizing an IML event in your country, please contact us: iml@iom.int

Legislative and Policy Review: The Unit assists governments to develop and implement migration legislation and procedures consistent with applicable international and regional standards. The objective is to strengthen the capacity of governments to govern migration more effectively and consistent with the rule of law. In this context, the Unit offers advice and information to governments considering the ratification of relevant international or regional treaties and provides legal consultancy and revision of national migration legislation for individual governments at their request

Advocacy: The Unit represents IOM in a range of UN committees such as the Steering Committee for the Promotion of the Ratification of the UN Migrant Workers Convention.

The IML unit also regularly collaborate with the Human Rights Treaty Bodies, to facilitate the monitoring of the implementation of the core international human rights conventions. The Unit assists the local IOM offices in preparing reports on county-specific information. These reports contain: 

  • General information and background about migration in the country;
  • The national legal framework and policy strategies in the implementation of the relevant conventions;
  • Issues concerning implementation of the conventions;
  • Recommendations on areas of improvements or changes to the Committee for considerations.

The Unit further collaborates with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. In particular, it works closely with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. The IML Unit also advises the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Human Rights Council and, upon request, has provided its expertise by preparing amicus curiae on specific areas of law.

Research and Publications: The Unit conducts research on migration law and current migration issues to analyze and evaluate the various facets and interplay of international, regional and national migration law. The Unit seeks for better governance of migration through research activities that improve awareness and knowledge of migration law. | More information