Containment Instead of Refoulement: Shifting State Responsibility in the Age of Cooperative Migration Control?

Abstract

Containment policies whereby destination States provide funding, equipment and training to transit States that intercept refugees on their behalf suggest that destination States try to circumvent the prohibition of refoulement and raise the question to what extent destination States can avoid responsibility for violations of the rights of migrants and refugees by cooperating with transit States. Answering this question requires broadening the analysis beyond the principle of non-refoulement, including not only international human rights law, especially the right to leave and the concept of jurisdiction, but also the law of State responsibility, notably the prohibition of complicity. This article argues that, although it remains debatable whether the principle of non-refoulement applies when transit States intercept migrants and refugees on behalf of sponsoring destination States, the wider network of international law rules constrains the latter’s ability to avoid responsibility when implementing cooperative migration control policies.