IRRC No. 904
The protection of migrants under international humanitarian law
Reading time 13 min read
The movement of migrants across international borders may result in grave humanitarian consequences and protection and assistance needs for those involved. Although many reach their destinations safely, others may find themselves in a country experiencing armed conflict – either because they live there or are travelling through there – and may endure great difficulties and be particularly vulnerable. In these situations, as civilians, migrants are protected under international humanitarian law (IHL) against the effects of hostilities and when in the hands of a party to the conflict. This article will provide an overview of the protection afforded by IHL to migrants as civilians in international and non- international armed conflicts. It will then examine more closely certain particularly relevant rules for the issue of migration, notably those related to the movement of migrants, family unity, and missing and dead migrants. In this way, this article will show that IHL provides important legal protections for migrants finding themselves in situations of armed conflict.