Dead and Missing Migrants: The Obligations of European States under International Human Rights Law – International Human Rights Briefing

This paper reviews how international human rights law (IHRL) applies in situations of migrant death and loss in the European region. It sets out principles which should be at the centre of national responses when migrants die or go missing at international borders. It focuses on the state’s legal duties under IHRL to protect the right to life, and specifically to investigate deaths and give information to families.

The paper takes as its starting point the rules which have been developed in relation to missing persons in international humanitarian law (IHL). It then asks what equivalent protections can be found in IHRL. It concludes that in some areas, notably investigation of deaths and identification, the state’s duties are broadly similar, although IHRL is less developed and less specific than IHL. The last section summarises these duties, and also lists some areas where further work is needed.

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