We look here at the work and action pertaining to the regulation of migrations of international lawyers belonging to the Institut de Droit International (IDI) during the four decades before the First World War. We show that interest for the rights of foreigners in western states and the circulation of people derived both from the liberal agenda these lawyers shared and the will to regulate the interactions between states that could produce conflict. The idi devised during that period a coherent set of rules and recommendations insisting on a minimal protection of refugees, and the necessity of granting foreigners and nationals equal civil rights. The position of power the members of this liberal network shared enabled them shortly before the First World War to ensure that some of these provisions became shared legal norms, even if for a short time and only for some European states.
Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns, ‘La conférence de Berlin sur la législation du travail et le socialisme dans le droit international’, Revue de droit international et de législation comparée(1890) 24, quoted in Jean J.A. Salmon, ‘Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns’, in: Institut de droit international, Livre du centenaire, 1873–1973. Évolution et perspectives du droit international (Bâle 1973) 103–123, 123.