Effective protection?
A comparative analysis of the role of international law in preventing and tackling human trafficking among refugees and asylum seekers in Africa and Europe

  • Gillian Kane

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Across the globe, there are 26 million refugees and 4.2 million asylum seekers (RAS), a figure which is continually on the rise as drivers of displacement persist in multiple contexts. Among the challenges facing RAS is the risk and reality of human trafficking. This thesis focuses on the role of international law in addressing this problem. The emphasis is on understanding what international law can and does do so that its potential can be maximised, and its weaknesses mitigated. The assessment centres upon three regimes within the body of international law: international anti-trafficking law, international refugee law, and international human rights law. Throughout the comparative analysis, which encompasses global, regional African and European, and domestic planes, international law’s nature is presented as iterative and interactive, particularly insofar as it offers protection to individuals. The thesis argues that, at its core, international law offers considerable promise in its ability to address the problem, both in terms of scope and in relation to the creation and empowerment of various state-empowered entities, which inform, develop, and supervise the implementation of the applicable regimes. Nevertheless, weaknesses remain. Content and implementation gaps persist alongside problematic clashes between the underlying rationale of the applicable frameworks and the overarching policy objectives of states. While not ignoring its weakness, the thesis presents – to borrow Sikkink’s phrase – ‘evidence for hope’ in terms of international law’s capacity to play a meaningful role in addressing trafficking among refugees and asylum seekers.

Thesis embargoed until 31 July 2027.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorColin Harvey (Supervisor) & Thérèse Murphy (Supervisor)


  • International law
  • international refugee law
  • human rights
  • human trafficking
  • asylum
  • refugees
  • comparative international law

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