Law and Exploitation: The limits of the European regime of human rights to protect irregular migrants in labour relations

Critical legal scholars observe that irregular migrants are rendered cheap labour forces in most labour relations and are abandoned in the condition of severe exploitation. This paper, asks ‘how the legal constructions behind the protection of labour-related rights under the European regime of human rights enable the exploitation of irregular migrants.’ In order to address this question, I develop a review of the labour-related protections vis-à-vis irregular migrants under the European human rights framework as well as a review of the landmark rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in this regard. I argue that the exploitation of irregular migrants takes place not because they lack the right to work and the protections attached to it. Irregular migrants, rather, turn exploitable subjects from the outset through the normalization of an inversion in the derivative and core elements of the human right to work under the European regime of human rights.