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Open Access Wasted Lives. Borders and the Right to Life of People Crossing Them

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Wasted Lives. Borders and the Right to Life of People Crossing Them

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States are obliged to protect the right to life by law. This article analyses the way in which states do this in the field of aviation law, maritime law and the law on migrant smuggling. A comparative description of these fields shows that states differentiate in protecting the right to life. Regular travellers benefit from extensive positive obligations to safeguard their right to life, whereas the lives of irregularised travellers are protected first and foremost by combating irregularised migration and, if the worst comes to pass, by search and rescue. The right of states to exclude aliens from their territories leads to exclusion of irregularised travellers from their main positive obligations under the right to life. This situation is analysed through Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of ‘wasted lives’. The contrast with aviation and maritime law makes clear that this situation is the outcome of human choice, which can be changed.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Migration Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

States are obliged to protect the right to life by law. This article analyses the way in which states do this in the field of aviation law, maritime law and the law on migrant smuggling. A comparative description of these fields shows that states differentiate in protecting the right to life. Regular travellers benefit from extensive positive obligations to safeguard their right to life, whereas the lives of irregularised travellers are protected first and foremost by combating irregularised migration and, if the worst comes to pass, by search and rescue. The right of states to exclude aliens from their territories leads to exclusion of irregularised travellers from their main positive obligations under the right to life. This situation is analysed through Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of ‘wasted lives’. The contrast with aviation and maritime law makes clear that this situation is the outcome of human choice, which can be changed.

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/content/journals/10.1163/15718107-08601004
2017-03-23
2018-10-15

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