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State sovereignty and migration control: the ultimate act of discrimination?

journal contribution
posted on 2005-01-01, 00:00 authored by Mirko Bagaric, John MorssJohn Morss
Nations zealously guard their borders and carefully vet migrants. This consigns many people to live in states not of their choice and often diminishes their opportunities and their level of flourishing. In some cases it is the difference between life and death. The practice of imposing migration controls is discriminatory. In fact it is the ultimate form of discrimination: 'super-discrimination.' There is no logical or moral reason why non-nationals of a state should not have the same opportunities and freedoms as nationals in that state. One of the most common forms of discrimination is race - treating a person differently simply because of their place of birth. This is one of the clearest and most repugnant forms of discrimination because the location where a person is born is of course merely a happy or unhappy circumstance over which the individual has no control. An accident of birth should not qualify a person for extra privileges or opportunities. The world is a fairer place if to the maximum extent possible luck is taken out of the process for allocating benefits and burdens - which ought to be distributed on the basis of merit and dessert. This paper examines whether there are sound reasons for restricting the flow of world-wide people movement. The main arguments in favour of this policy, relating to security and national building, are ultimately flawed. This exposes a tragic irony given the great efforts that many Western states - which typically have the strongest migration controls - make to stamp out discrimination at the domestic level, and the vast array of international law anti-discrimination instruments, loudly trumpeted by Western nations. This is hypocrisy nearing its finest. The substratum of sovereign states upon which available international law is built is inherently discriminatory and in fact is probably responsible for more harm as a result of the innately discriminatory immigration policies than results from the cumulative operation of all domestic discrimination. The world should move towards loosening migration controls. This would have an enormous number of humanistic benefits, not the least of which is largely eradicating world hunger and poverty.



Journal of migration and refugee issues






25 - 50


Sandstone Academic Press


Melbourne, Vic.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2005, Sandstone Academic Press

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