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Transnational Mobility, the International Law of Aliens, and the Origins of Global Migration Law

  • Frédéric Mégret (a1)

Extract

To speak of a “global migration law” is challenging, perhaps even quite provocative, in an era in which walls are being continuously erected at borders and seas transformed into mass graves. The ambition of international law often seems to be to rescue what can still be saved: the refugee regime for example, or minimally decent treatment of migrants once under the jurisdiction of a third country. A global law of migration, then, might be as much if not more the law of obstacles to human mobility than a body of law premised on a more fundamental commitment to freedom of movement.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

References

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2 See, in particular, the landmark James AR Nafziger, The general admission of aliens under international law, 77 AJIL 804 (1983).

3 Institut de droit international, Règles internationales sur l'admission et l'expulsion des étrangers (1892): “l'humanité et la justice obligent les Etats à n'exercer ce droit qu'en respectant, dans la mesure compatible avec leur propre sécurité, le droit et la liberté des étrangers qui veulent pénétrer sur ledit territoire, ou  qui s'y trouvent déjà.”

4 Chronique des faits internationaux, 1 Revue générale de droit international public 555 (1894): “l'idée de communauté internationale qui fait que les nations, en tant que membres de l'humanité, sont tenues de respecter les liens qui les unissents.” The same author went as far as to suggest that “the rule of the equality of states is an obtacle to states distinguishing between the foreigners that they intend to keep at bay: one cannot push back the subjects of one nation and at the same time accept two from another” (“la règle de l’égalité des Etats fait obstacle à ce qu'un gouvernement distingue entre les étrangers qu'il entend éloigner de son territoire: il ne saurait repousser les sujets d'une nation et en même temps admettre deux d'une autre”).

5 Institut de droit international, Principes recommandés par l'Institut, en vue d'un projet de convention en matière d'émigration art. 1 (1897): “Contracting states recognize the freedom to emigrate and immigrate to individuals in isolation or en masse, without distinction of nationality. This liberty shall only be restrained by a duly published decision by the governments and within the rigorous limits of the necessities of social order and politics” (“Les Etats contractants reconnaissent la liberté d'émigrer et d'immigrer aux individus isolés ou en masse, sans distinction de nationalité. Cette liberté ne pourra être restreinte que par décision dûment publiée des gouvernements et dans les limites rigoureuses des nécessités d'ordre social et politique.”)

6 William Edward Hall, A Treatise on International Law 211 (1890).

7 Ernst Isay, 5 De La Nationalité 451 (1924): “Il est contraire au droit des gens qu'un État qui fait partie de la communauté internationale, s'entoure d'une muraille de Chine. La Chine et le Japon, aussi longtemps qu'ils se tinrent fermés systématiquement aux étrangers, ne faisaient pas partie de cette communauté. Un État agirait encore contre le droit des gens en refusant l'entrée de son territoire non plus aux étrangers en bloc, mais aux ressortissants d'un ou de plusieurs États particuliers. Car il violerait le droit fondamental des États en question à une égalité de traitement: droit qui découle du droit des gens.”

8 Alfred Verdross, Règles concernant le traitement des étrangers, 37 Recueil Des Cours 327, 343–344 (emphasis added): “nul Etat de la communauté internationale ne prétend avoir le droit de fermer arbitrairement ses frontières aux étrangers. Tous ont, en fait, suivi la norme que chaque refus d'admission, pour être légitime du point de vue du droit des gens, doit se baser sur un titre raisonnable.”

10 Institut de droit international, supra note 3: “L'entrée libre des étrangers sur le territoire d'un État civilisé ne peut être prohibée d'une manière générale et permanente qu’à raison de l'intérêt public et de motifs extrêmement graves.”

11 Interestingly for our purposes, the United States considered that Russia asking U.S. citizens about their religion amounted to an “assumption of a religious inquisitorial function within our own borders, by a foreign agency, in a manner … repugnant to the national sense.” As William Wharton, Acting Secretary of the Department of State put it in a letter dated February 28, 1893: “It is not within the power of this Government, or of any of its authorities, to apply a religious test in qualification of the equal rights of all citizens of the United States.” Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States 536 (1894).

12 Hall, supra note 56, at 211.

14 Borchard, supra note 9, at 46.

15 Institut de droit international, supra note 3: “une différence fondamentale de mœurs ou de civilisation ou à raison d'une organisation ou accumulation dangereuse d’étrangers qui se présenteraient en masse”.

16 Borchard, supra note 9, at 46.

17 Brenda Gayle Plummer, Between privilege and opprobrium: the Arabs and Jews in Haiti, 16 Immigrants & Minorities 80 (1998).

18 Nafziger, supra note 2.

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