Human Rights of Migrant Workers: The Vicious Cycle of Powerful State Sovereignty, Lack of Ratification and Weak Enforcement

19 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2010

See all articles by Raluca David

Raluca David

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: April 16, 2010


Over 175 million people in the world are international migrants, and Europe has the largest number of migrant workers on a single continent, followed by Asia. In terms of human rights, Europe has come a very long way from the days of the Cold War when citizens of Eastern Europe were not only prohibited from working in other countries, but it was also very hard for them to travel outside their own country, much less go beyond the Iron Curtain. Today the European Union and in particular the Schengen Area provide an example of facilitated freedom of movement not only for travelers but also for migrant workers within the EU. However, there are still many human rights issues, like “low or unpaid wages, exclusion from unions, dangerous or unhealthy work conditions and trafficking of female migrants for purposes of forced labour, marriage, and prostitution.” Furthermore, the differences between the more prosperous Western Europe and the less developed Eastern Europe still affect migrant workers’ human rights.

This essay will focus particularly on the human rights of migrant workers within the EU but it will also compare and contrast those workers coming from other countries into the EU, and migrant workers all over the world. There are three main issues facing human rights of migrant workers today. The first issue is the perceived threat to state sovereignty posed by the effects of implementing human rights for non-citizens. Secondly, the imbalance between the receiving countries, which have not ratified human rights law, and the sending countries most of whom have ratified the international conventions is striking. Finally, as with all international law, the effectiveness of the enforcement is always an issue.

Keywords: international law, international human rights, human rights law, European Union, migrant, migrant workers, non-citizens, state sovereignty, ratification, enforcement, Migrant Workers Convention, united nations conventions, international trade, ILO

JEL Classification: F22, K33

Suggested Citation

David, Raluca, Human Rights of Migrant Workers: The Vicious Cycle of Powerful State Sovereignty, Lack of Ratification and Weak Enforcement (April 16, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Raluca David (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics