Saving Migrants’ Basic Human Rights from Sovereign Rule

Saving Migrants’ Basic Human Rights from Sovereign Rule

By Lukas Schmid, European University Institute

States cannot legitimately enforce their borders against migrants if dominant conceptions of sovereignty inform enforcement because these conceptions undermine sufficient respect for migrants’ basic human rights. Instead, such conceptions lead states to assert total control over outsiders’ potential cross-border movements to support their in-group’s self-rule. Thus, although legitimacy requires states to prioritize universal respect for basic human rights, sovereign states today generally fail to do so when it comes to border enforcement. I contend that this enforcement could only be rendered legitimate if it was predicated on more desirable conceptions of sovereignty that supported the universal prioritization of basic human rights. Specifically, desirable conceptions would not establish and require absolute state sovereignty over borders as a necessary precondition for true popular self-governance.

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