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Definitions of the Right to Freedom of Movement

Definitions of the Right to Freedom of Movement

The right to freedom of movement was initially codified in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
  • Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

The right is enshrined in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

  • Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.
  • Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
  • The above-mentioned rights shall not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Covenant.
  • No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child contains this right in Article 10:

  • In accordance with the obligation of States Parties under article 9, paragraph 1, applications by a child or his or her parents to enter or leave a State Party for the purpose of family reunification shall be dealt with by States Parties in a positive, humane and expeditious manner. States Parties shall further ensure that the submission of such a request shall entail no adverse consequences for the applicants and for the members of their family.
  • A child whose parents reside in different States shall have the right to maintain on a regular basis, save in exceptional circumstances personal relations and direct contacts with both parents. Towards that end and in accordance with the obligation of States Parties under article 9, paragraph 1, States Parties shall respect the right of the child and his or her parents to leave any country, including their own, and to enter their own country. The right to leave any country shall be subject only to such restrictions as are prescribed by law and which are necessary to protect the national security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Convention.

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families contains this right in Articles 5, 8 and 39:

Article 5

For the purposes of the present Convention, migrant workers and members of their families:

Are considered as documented or in a regular situation if they are authorized to enter, to stay and to engage in a remunerated activity in the State of employment pursuant to the law of that State and to international agreements to which that State is a party.

Are considered as non-documented or in an irregular situation if they do not comply with the conditions provided for in subparagraph (a) of the present article.

Article 8

  • Migrant workers and members of their families shall be free to leave any State, including their State of origin. This right shall not be subject to any restrictions except those that are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present part of the Convention.
  • Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right at any time to enter and remain in their State of origin.

Article 39

  • Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to liberty of movement in the territory of the State of employment and freedom to choose their residence there.
  • The rights mentioned in paragraph 1 of the present article shall not be subject to any restrictions except those that are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others and are consistent with the other rights recognized in the present Convention.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities contains this right in Articles 9 and 18:

Article 9

  1. To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

a. Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces;

b. Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.

2. States Parties shall also take appropriate measures to:

a. Develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public;

b. Ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities;

c. Provide training for stakeholders on accessibility issues facing persons with disabilities;

d. Provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in Braille and in easy to read and understand forms;

e. Provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public;

f. Promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information;

g. Promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet;

h. Promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.

Article 18

  1. States Parties shall recognize the rights of persons with disabilities to liberty of movement, to freedom to choose their residence and to a nationality, on an equal basis with others, including by ensuring that persons with disabilities:

a. Have the right to acquire and change a nationality and are not deprived of their nationality arbitrarily or on the basis of disability;

b. Are not deprived, on the basis of disability, of their ability to obtain, possess and utilize documentation of their nationality or other documentation of identification, or to utilize relevant processes such as immigration proceedings, that may be needed to facilitate exercise of the right to liberty of movement;

c. Are free to leave any country, including their own;

d. Are not deprived, arbitrarily or on the basis of disability, of the right to enter their own country.

2. Children with disabilities shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by their parents.

The right is also contained in Article 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights:

  • Every individual shall have the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of a State provided he abides by the law.
  • Every individual shall have the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country. This right may only be subject to restrictions, provided for by law for the protection of national security, law and order, public health or morality.
  • Every individual shall have the right, when persecuted, to seek and obtain asylum in other countries in accordance with laws of those countries and international conventions.
  • A non-national legally admitted in a territory of a State Party to the present Charter, may only be expelled from it by virtue of a decision taken in accordance with the law.
  • The mass expulsion of non-nationals shall be prohibited. Mass expulsion shall be that which is aimed at national, racial, ethnic or religious groups.

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