A necessary complement to human rights: a human security perspective on migration to Europe

Ali Bilgic, Des Gasper, Cathy Wilcock

Research output: Working paperAcademic

22 Downloads (Pure)


Today many European citizens and many migrants into Europe live under fear and anxiety. Existing political structures dichotomize the two sets of insecurities and so contribute to perpetuate them. The insecurity of citizens is seen as attainable independent of and despite the insecurity of migrants, rather than as part of a common (shared) human security. In response, this essay presents ideas from human security analysis, as a partner, complement and extension of human rights thinking in relation to migration. It is argued that such an analysis, with concrete practical options, can contribute to the creation of structures through which interdependency of EU citizens’ security and that of migrants is recognised and upheld. Section 2 outlines the migration crisis that has been felt in Europe and some reasons behind it. Section 3 considers the responses of securitization of migration and militarization at the EU’s southern borders, and of supplementary humanitarianism. We analyse why the EU migration policy system, conceived outside of a conception of common human security, produces negative feedback and is counterproductive. In Section 4 we argue in general terms why human security analysis is a required partner to human rights thinking and practice. Section 5 then concretely suggests how a human security perspective could help to frame, balance and extend human rights analysis and contribute in migration policy and practice. These suggestions include generating legal channels for migration, addressing the conceptual confusions revolving around migration through introducing a more comprehensive concept of ‘protection-seeker’, developing a European-wide regularisation mechanism, using human security as a meta-legal figure in migration cases, and developing a perspective that combines human rights criteria with enlightened self-interest. Finally, Section 6 discusses the partial reflection of such a perspective in the 2018 Global Compact on Migration.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationThe Hague
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series

Bibliographical note

link in repub: hdl.handle.net/1765/128107

This paper is an outcome of cooperation during the tenure of Ali Bilgic as holder of the Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity, 2017-19, at the International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, hosted by Des Gasper, Linda Johnson and Cathy Wilcock. Some parts of the paper build on a public lecture by Dr. Bilgic (‘A Human Security Perspective on Migration: A Compass in the Perfect Storm’, 12 April 2018.) Other parts grow out of work with and/or by Des Gasper and Cathy Wilcock, and interactions with colleagues in ISS, including Jeff Handmaker, Thea Hilhorst and Helen Hintjens, other schools in Erasmus University Rotterdam (including Law, Sociology) and in the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and discussions in relation to the Global Compact on Migration. A sister version, using a different sequence of argumentation and sometimes different material and emphases, will appear as ‘A Human Security Perspective on Migration to Europe’, in Haven: The Mediterranean Crisis and Human Security, edited by John Morrissey (Edward Elgar Publishers, 2020).

Research programs



  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


Dive into the research topics of 'A necessary complement to human rights: a human security perspective on migration to Europe'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this