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There are many reasons that people move from one country to another. In this article we will consider some examples.
People queuing up at a border wall between Mexico and the US
© ICRC and Durham University


Research has shown that there are many reasons why people move from one country to another, which typically involves a combination of choice and constraint. The narrative surrounding migration has become highly politicized and in the context of migration humanitarian narratives are instrumentalized to justify highly problematic migration policies.

The ICRC, like the rest of the International Red Cross and Crescent Movement, uses a deliberately broad description of “migrants” to include all people who leave or flee their home to seek safety or better prospects, and who may be in distress and need protection or humanitarian assistance. Migrants may be workers, students and/or foreigners deemed irregular by public authorities. They can also be refugees, asylum seekers and/or stateless persons. We seek to ensure that all migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, receive the protection they are entitled to under international and domestic law, but we adopted an inclusive description to reflect our operational practice and emphasize that all migrants are protected under several bodies of law.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have defined Migrants under the following in their Policy on Migration, 2009:

“Migrants are persons who leave or flee their habitual residence to go to new places – usually abroad – to seek opportunities or safer and better prospects. Migration can be voluntary or involuntary, but most of the time a combination of choices and constraints are involved.

Thus, this policy includes, among others, labour migrants, stateless migrants, and migrants deemed irregular by public authorities. It also concerns refugees and asylum seekers, notwithstanding the fact that they constitute a special category under international law.”

It is important to remember that migrants are protected under several bodies of international law, including international human rights law, and under domestic law. In addition, certain individuals may also be entitled to specific protection under international law, in accordance with their legal status and/or depending on their particular circumstances (e.g. protection under international refugee law for refugees and asylum seekers, or under international humanitarian law (IHL) when caught in a situation of armed conflict). Amnesty International has created a useful summary version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

© ICRC and Durham University
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