In the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) the right of States to control migration is firmly established despite strong indications that the effects of migration control are not racially neutral. In this article we attempt to understand how it is possible that the doctrine of sovereign migration control is not considered to breach the prohibition of racial discrimination. We argue that the ECtHR’s approach to migration and racial discrimination fits a pattern in the historical development of migration law whereby the right to travel, and the power of States to restrict this right, have been consistently defined in such a way as to protect the interests of the predominantly white population of today’s global North. Hence, the ease with which the racialised impact of migration control is accepted as normal and compatible with the prohibition of racial discrimination is consistent with migration law’s long history as part of colonial and postcolonial relations.
Race and the regulation of international migration. The ongoing impact of colonialism in the case law of The European Court of Human Rights, Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 39(2021)4, 291-307