Migrant Workers in International Human Rights Law: Their Protection in Countries of Employment

By Ryszard Cholewinski | Go to book overview

2 Migrant Workers and their Families as Aliens: Development of International Law and Applicability of Universal and Regional Human Rights Instruments

The situation of aliens or foreigners seems . . . to be one of the most serious, and at the same time most widespread, departures from the principle of the universality of human rights and one of the most manifest signs of intolerance and discrimination in our age.1


2.1 INTRODUCTION

The position of migrant workers and their families in international law is inextricably connected to their status as aliens. Any established international legal rules concerned with the protection of aliens are therefore relevant when endeavouring to gauge the degree of protection migrants may expect to receive. Rudimentary standards regarding the treatment of aliens have developed over time and have become part of the international law of state responsibility. More recently, these standards have been reinforced, elaborated, and effectively superseded by the international community's recognition of rights pertaining to all human beings.


2.2 THE TREATMENT OF ALIENS: A SHORT HISTORICAL SURVEY

Throughout history aliens have always been treated differently from citizens. Traditional deprivations upon aliens have their roots 'deep in primitive suspicions and fears of the outsider'.2 Indeed, 'stranger' and 'enemy' were once labelled by the same word in a number of ancient languages, including Latin.3 The first historical records concerning differences in treatment between aliens and citizens may be traced to Ancient Greece and Rome.

____________________
1
P. Leuprecht, "'Reflections on Human Rights'" (Lecture, University of Gdansk, Poland, 25 April 1988) ( 1988) 9 HRLJ163, 166.
2
M. S. McDougal, H. D. Lasswell, and L. Chen, "'Protection of Aliens from Discrimination and World Public Order: Responsibility of States conjoined with Human Rights'" ( 1976) 70 AJIL432, 433.See also R. B. Lillich, The Human Rights of Aliens in Contemporary International Law ( Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984) 5.
3
M. Walzer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality ( 1983) 32.

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