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Ahead of the game? The human rights origins and potential of Argentina's 2004 migration policy

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posted on 2023-06-09, 11:39 authored by Susanne Melde
A restrictive discourse on migration calling for increased border control dominates the political agenda of many governments throughout the world. In stark contrast, Argentina's 2004 Migration Law was based on human rights, both in rhetoric and on paper. This is perhaps even more striking given that the Law was adopted two years after a devastating political and socio-economic crisis. This thesis seeks to identify the factors that led Argentina to choose to base its reformed Migration Law on human rights. It also assesses whether this process arose in circumstances that are unique to Argentina or whether it could be reproduced as a model for other countries elsewhere. To do so, it relies on several methods, including interviews with key actors in the policy-making process. Analysis demonstrates that a combination of at least four elements led to the human rights approach. Firstly, the tradition of an open migration law and constitution until 1981 – but often being undermined by other, restrictive legislation and policy – and the historical link of national identity with immigration up to the present day. Secondly, the salience of human rights achieved by civil society activists, during the democratic transition after the last dictatorship (1976–1983), who innovatively applied human rights advocacy strategies to change the Migration Law in the early 2000s. Thirdly, the consultative and multi-stakeholder policy-making process itself encouraged a consensus on the human rights basis of the Migration Law. Fourthly, the context of the 2001 socio-economic and political crisis, leading to increased levels of emigration, put the rights of migrants on the political agenda. This last was linked to a new regional, post-neoliberal, ideological consensus in the region on the universality of migrants’ rights regardless of status – led, in particular, by Argentina. The thesis finds that the stars aligned at the right place at the right time.


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