At a roundtable on the subject in December 2013, The Hague Institute convened a group of director-level officials from government, international organizations, and civil society to discuss the links between irregular migration and global justice.

This policy brief draws extensively on the ideas generated during the discussions to provide policy recommendations to government officials and relevant NGOs as to what fair and effective irregular migration governance might entail in light of the complexity, and how a balance can be struck between national security concerns and respecting irregular migrants rights while taking into account the economic contributions these migrants bring. Throughout the brief, we use a global justice framework as a guide for developing a comprehensive approach to irregular migration.

Most migration stakeholders clearly recognize that irregularity is undesirable and a continuous source of concern for many governments and the international community. The issue, which has barely been acknowledged, is that continuous demand for cheap labor in destination states is a catalyst for irregular migration, both stimulating and sustaining the phenomenon. It is within this complex and paradoxical context of undesirability and indispensability that policymakers and irregular migrants find themselves.

After outlining the multifarious aspects of irregular migration, the brief proposes four concrete policy recommendations. The first reassesses the concept of irregular migration and how it can be adapted to promote comprehensive migration policies. The second addresses security concerns. The third and fourth discuss how stakeholders could use in-depth dialogues and partnerships in developing and adopting migration governance reforms. The recommendations are geared toward the needs of contemporary migration stakeholders as well as to the “usual suspects” of international migration governance.