Imagine there’s no countries (…). You may say I´m a dreamer, But I´m not the only one” – John Lennon, 19711
Many asylum seekers come from far away, escaping in overcrowded and leaky boats, to then arrive on the doorstep of countries that don’t let them in. People have different fears regarding migration waves, but are they justified? This post considers the pros and cons of open borders, including the moral, economic, political and social perspectives to conclude that human dignity, which is the conviction that all people hold a unique value, stands above all else.
The UN migration agency recorded 4470 people that died while migrating in 20212, which shows the terrible human costs of restricting international border crossings. In a society that is becoming more linked; money, goods, and services frequently cross borders. Only people are an exception.3 How come? Should achieving a world with open borders be the ultimate goal?
THE MORAL PERSPECTIVE
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says in Article 13 that emigration, meaning moving away from one’s country, is a human right.4 It seems paradoxical that people who have a right to escape regimes are not necessarily allowed to enter and thus immigrate to other countries.
“What is it worth to have a right to emigrate, when there is no right to immigrate?” 5
Borders discriminate and preserve an unfair system of privilege based on the luck of birth, which contradicts our basic right to equality.6 Some argue, including the economist Brian Caplan, that it upholds a system of “global apartheid” through the exclusion of people based on their nationality.7 Others say that it creates inequality by differentiating between low-skilled and highly-skilled people, the latter being quickly seen as expats and allowed to cross borders.8 If we believe that everyone is born equal and free, how can we justify upholding such a system?
Opening borders around the globe seems to be the morally correct course of action. However, what would be the economic, social, and political consequences?
It is extremely difficult to predict the economy’s future, although the following points are generally agreed upon. To end global poverty, it seems best to open borders completely, since it would significantly raise the national GDP, due to the following reasons explained by the political scientist Jaap van Ark:9
First, immigrants are consumers, as they are workers and could fill in necessary gaps in the labour market. We are in most European countries in a period of population ageing in most European countries, which results in more old people and not enough working people, therefore immigration could stop economic and social issues that would otherwise be expected.
Secondly, many intelligent and talented people leaving their country to immigrate could lead to a “brain drain”, especially in developing countries, which would at least short term drag down their economic growth. But Ark explains that open borders will likely transform the brain drain into a brain flow, since it will boost the chances for migrants to return home and create a flow back of learned skills and knowledge, ultimately, increasing the home countries’ GDP.
Lastly, there is a massive underuse of labour in less developed countries. People in some regions of the world are not less productive; rather, they are less productive because they lack the resources. If these workers could cross countries without restriction, the economy would benefit from them reaching their full potential.
Ark does note that if borders opened, it is likely that the welfare system in the country receiving migrants would suffer because too many people would take advantage of the benefits while making too few financial contributions. Although, it is especially the integration phase where most financial help is needed. Therefore, a big sum of money is only necessary for a short period to give migrants a head start.
States can restrict immigration due to their state sovereignty, which allows states to control who is allowed to enter. Keeping their citizens secure is one of their most crucial duties. Problem is that wrongful associations between immigrants and crime are common. Although migrants are not bad people or more prone to crime, but they create contextual changes. For example, more migrants mean more workforce, thus generally lower wages which could lead to countries increasing in crime. Contrarily, less crime is arguably created through more social control. A big part of migrants are families who form networks with the local community, which results in more pressure to maintain norms and rules.10
The reality is, that 2/3 people believe that there are already too many migrants in their country11. Should the view of the majority be considered in the migration discussion? Since we live in a democracy, public views are crucial, but let’s not forget that opinions are based on existing knowledge.
2/3 OF EUROPEANS THINK THERE ARE TOO MANY MIGRANTS IN EUROPE
The public needs to be educated beforehand through posts like this so that they can have informed opinions.
Many people are afraid to be overwhelmed by a massive flow of migrants searching for safety and work. Looking at the current global inequalities, it seems reasonable to assume that receiving countries would face overpopulation. Although, when the European Union allowed free movement, many feared the same, but a big wave never took place. Most people need very good reasons to move away from their countries, families, and cultures. If they do, they often have a strong desire to go home, as seen in the chart.12
SHOULD WE OPEN OUR BORDERS?
Economically, the effects of open borders are very positive., Europe serves as a good example. The fear of a huge wave of migrants is a fear that is not grounded in proof and the association between migration and crime cannot be so easily drawn. We do live in a democracy, and the majority is still against more migration. But morally it is quite hard to justify our borders. For me, it is a matter of principle to not hinder border crossings, especially when there are no proven negative consequences. Ultimately, we are talking about human lives, suffering, equality, and freedom. Don’t you agree that these aspects stand above all else and cannot be argued against?
1Lennon, John (1971). Imagine. Imagine Apple records.
2 Ansa. (2021). Rising migrant deaths worldwide top 4470 in 2021. Infomigrants.
3 Bauder, H. (2015). Perspectives of Open Borders and No Borders. Geography Compass, 9, 395– 405. 10.1111/gec3.12224.
4 United Nations. (1948). Universal Declaration of Human Rights. https://www.un.org/en/about us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights
5 Ark, J. (2021). A World Without Borders: Utopia or Dystopia. ACADEMIA.
6 Omoniyi, T. (2007). The Cultures of Economic Migration: International Perspectives. Taylor &Francis Group. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315615264
7 Caplan, B. (2019). Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration. New York, NY, USA: Roaring Brook Press.
8 Ark, J. (2021)
9 Ark, J. (2021)
10 Ousey, G. C., & Kubrin, C. E. (2009). Exploring the Connection between Immigration and Violent Crime Rates in U.S. Cities. Social Problems, 56(3), pp. 447-473
11 Ark, J. (2021)
12 Omoniyi, T. (2007)