Collage for International Migrants Day

It is a commonplace to say that we live in a globalised world. Less well understood is that globalisation is taking place in stages. We are in the second: the age of mobility. In its first stage, as flows of capital and goods were liberated, the benefits of globalisation flowed primarily to the developed world and its principal trading partners, among them Brazil, China and India. As we enter the age of mobility, people will cross borders in ever greater numbers in pursuit of opportunity and a better life. They have the potential to chip away at the vast inequalities that characterise our time, and accelerate progress throughout the developing world.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
We should welcome the dawn of the migration age
The Guardian, 10 July 2011

Ban-Ki-moon“When their rights are violated, when they are marginalized and excluded, migrants will be unable to contribute either economically or socially to the societies they have left behind or those they enter. However, when supported by the right policies and human rights protections, migration can be a force for good for individuals as well as for countries of origin, transit and destination”.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Missatge per al Dia Internacional del Migrant
18 December 2011

Al NasserThe discussion about migration “has reached a worrying imbalance. The fear of the ‘other’ has become more acute since the onset of the other world financial and economic crisis. Migrants have increasingly become the targets of racist and intolerant attitudes and practices.
General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
Address to the Council of the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Geneva, Switzerland, 6 December 2011

Joseph Carens
Borders have guards and the guards have guns. This is an obvious fact of political life but one that is easily hidden from view—at least from the view of those of us who are citizens of affluent Western democracies. To Haitians in small, leaky boats confronted by armed Coast Guard cutters, to Salvadorans dying from heat and lack of air after being smuggled into the Arizona desert, to Guatemalans crawling through rat-infested sewer pipes from Mexico to California—to these people the borders, guards, and guns are all too apparent. What justifies the use of force against such people? Perhaps borders and guards can be justified as a way of keeping out criminals, subversives, or armed invaders. But most of those trying to get in are not like that. They are ordinary, peaceful people, seeking only the opportunity to build decent, secure lives for themselves and their families. On what moral grounds can these sorts of people be kept out? What gives anyone the right to point guns at them? To most people the answer to this question will seem obvious. The power to admit or exclude aliens is inherent in sovereignty and essential for any political community. Every state has the legal and moral right to exercise that power in pursuit of its own national interest, even if that means denying entry to peaceful, needy foreigners. States may choose to be generous in admitting immigrants, but they are under no obligation to do so.

I want to challenge that view. In this essay I will argue that borders should generally be open and that people should normally be free to leave their country of origin and settle in another, subject only to the sorts of constraints that bind current citizens in their new country. The argument is strongest, I believe, when applied to the migration of people from third-world countries to those of the first world. Citizenship in Western liberal democracies is the modern equivalent of feudal privilege—an inherited status that greatly enhances one’s life chances. Like feudal birthright privileges, restrictive citizenship is hard to justify when one thinks about it closely.
Joseph Carens
Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders
Review of Politics, Vol. 49/2 (1987), pp. 251–73

Arash Abizadeh
Whether a democratic polity has the right to unilaterally control and close its borders to foreigners cannot be settled until we first know to whom the justification of a regime of border control is owed. According to [38] the state sovereignty view—the dominant ideology of the contemporary interstate system—entry policy ought to be under the unilateral discretion of (the members of) the state itself, and whatever justification is required for a particular entry policy is simply owed to members: foreigners are owed no justification and so should have no control over a state’s entry policy. What I seek to demonstrate is that such a position is inconsistent with the democratic theory of popular sovereignty. Anyone who accepts a genuinely democratic theory of political legitimation domestically is thereby committed to rejecting the unilateral domestic right to control and close the state’s boundaries, whether boundaries in the civic sense (which regulate membership) or in the territorial sense (which regulate movement).
Migrants dayWe have been called many names. Illegals. Aliens. Guest Workers. Border crossers. Undesirables. Exiles. Criminals. Non-citizens. Terrorists. Thieves. Foreigners. Invaders. Undocumented.

Our voices converge on these principles:


2. We are all tied to more than one country. The multilaterally shaped phenomenon of migration cannot be solved unilaterally, or else it generates a vulnerable reality for migrants. Implementing universal rights is essential. The right to be included belongs to everyone.

3. We have the right to move and the right to not be forced to move. We demand the same privileges as corporations and the international elite, as they have the freedom to travel and to establish themselves wherever they choose. We are all worthy of opportunity and the chance to progress. We all have the right to a better life.


6. We acknowledge that individual people with inalienable rights are the true barometer of civilization. We identify with the victories of the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, the advancement of women’s rights, and the rising achievements of the LGBTQ community. It is our urgent responsibility and our historical duty to make the rights of migrants the next triumph in the quest for human dignity. It is inevitable that the poor treatment of migrants today will be our dishonor tomorrow.


10. We witness how fear creates boundaries, how boundaries create hate and how hate only serves the oppressors. We understand that migrants and non-migrants are interconnected. When the rights of migrants are denied the rights of citizens are at risk.
Dignity has no nationality.
Manifest Internacional dels Migrants 
Moviment Immigrant Internacional
Novembre de 2011

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