LSTU E-123. Migration and Human Rights


  • Professor: Jacqueline Bhabha
  • Term: Fall
  • Time: O ndemand
  • School: Harvard Kennedy School
  • Course ID: 15712 

Migration is a central moral issue of our time and its impacts will alter our world throughout this century. It affects the lives of millions, unsettles established governments, creates sharply polarizing policy dilemmas, and posits far-reaching administrative, economic, and political challenges. This course focuses on distress migration, including refugee flight and other forms of forced displacement, evaluated through the lens of human rights. It addresses the multifaceted drivers of this complex phenomenon, including armed conflict, environmental stress and climate change, global inequality, demographic pressures, and increasing globalization. Migration actors from a range of field sites contribute; some attend in person, others skype into the classroom conversation to create a more global classroom discussion and to enhance project-based learning. The course considers historical precedents to the current refugee and migration crisis, using case studies of massive past population displacements (for example, the Greek-Turkish population exchange post World War I, partition of British India and Palestine peri/post World War II) as instructive guides for contemporary problems. The course raises ethical and philosophical issues related to the duties owed to outsiders to probe the moral, religious, and political underpinnings of current approaches. It introduces students to the international and regional legal framework governing refugee protection and migration more broadly. It engages with the multiple risks migrants face before, during, and after their journeys and with current policy developments at the municipal, national, regional, and international level, including the ongoing efforts of the United Nations to craft two new Global Compacts on Refugees and on Migration. Finally, the course enables students to apply legal and other approaches to the analysis of migration challenges. The material for this is a range of contemporary case studies, including refugee situations in the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa, conflict-fueled migration, as well as migration flows arising from environmental displacement in the Middle East, disaster-fueled migration in Asia, irregular migration in the Americas, and seasonal internal migration in Asia involving bonded labor.