In Times of Massive Movement of People Across Borders: An Analysis of the Evolution of the Concept of ‘Sovereignty’ and ‘Refugee’

While an increasing amount of states are closing their borders, fighting to defend their sovereign territory, massive amounts of people migrate abroad. Currently, the concept of ‘sovereignty’, which has traditionally included the power of states to control and close their borders, has been called into question when confronted with other principles of international law. Particularly, this happens when sovereignty clashes with human rights that could allegedly be violated if certain migrants are rejected in a state’s frontiers.
When a migrant can be qualified as a refugee, states usually open their frontiers with ease. This makes sense because many states are parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention, or are nonetheless bound by a customary norm that they did not oppose to. However, when a migrant does not meet the criteria to be a refugee, but could be classified as a ‘climate refugee’, the human rights of the latter do conflict with states’ sovereignty to close their frontiers.