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Facilitating access to social protection for migrants & refugees through Law Clinics

Context and Justification

Despite all eyes being turned to Europe, with regards to what is commonly referred to as the ‘EU-Mediterranean migration crisis’, an effective rights-based response has yet to materialize. Large numbers of migrants are arriving in Europe within mixed migration flows, often risking their lives in perilous boat journeys across the Mediterranean Sea. Though often fleeing humanitarian crisis and human rights concerns in their country, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers often experience human rights violations upon arrival including arbitrary detention and expulsion but also constraints in accessing economic, social and cultural rights, including health and education.   


In 2015 alone, over 1 million people – refugees, displaced persons and other migrants –made their way to the EU, often escaping conflict in their country and in search of better economic prospects. According to EUROSTAT[1], more than 1.2 million persons asked asylum in Europe in 2015. While the numbers have shown a decreasing trend in 2016, by June around 220 000 people have reached Europe[2].


All migrants despite their regular or irregular status, including refugees and asylum seekers, are rights-holding human beings subject to the international framework of human rights. As members of society, migrants and refugees have the human right to social security, as well as to an adequate standard of living, including access to food, clothing, housing, medical care, and other necessary social services as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and echoed in other legal instruments, such as those of the International Labour Organization (ILO)[3].


Access to decent work and social protection of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, is also very much in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, endorsed by the UN General Assembly in September 2015, and particularly Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 on ending poverty in all its forms everywhere such as by implementing nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including social protection floors (target 3) and 8 on economic growth and decent work, in which full and productive employment and decent work for all is included as one of the targets[4].


The influx of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and their stay in Europe has important impacts on available services and resources. Increasing pressure is witnessed on registration procedures, on reception systems as well as on the in kind and in cash benefits provided during their stay in Europe. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees further reports that the current economic situation in Europe has had an impact not only on the country’s capacity and readiness to receive migrants and asylum seekers/refugees, but austerity measures have also had an impact on local actors providing services to asylum seekers and refugees.[5] Despite the EU-Turkey agreement[6] and the many other measures discussed in order to curb the refugee and migrant flow to Europe, Europe will still need to find solutions to respond to the high number migrants, refugees or persons asking for asylum.




[2] UNHCR :

[3] ILO Migration for Employment Convention (Revised), 1949 (No. 97) and ILO Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 (No. 143) and accompanying ILO Recommendations Nos 86 and 151; Equality of Treatment (Social Security) Convention, 1962 (No. 118); Maintenance of Social Security Rights Convention, 1982 (No. 157) and accompanying Recommendation No. 167 and Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102) and Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202).

[4] SDG target 1.3; “Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable “; SDG target 8.5: “By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value”; SDG target 8.8 refers specifically to migrant workers: “Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment”. See UN, General Assembly, 70th Session, Resolution 70/1: Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted on 25 September 2015, UN doc. A/RES/70/1 (21 October 2015)

[6] See for more details on the EU responses to the Refugee Crises: