And Who Is My Neighbor? Immigration, Human Rights & Sovereignty

And Who Is My Neighbor?

Immigration, Human Rights & Sovereignty

By Guillaume A.W. Attia (Editor-In-Chief)

January 6, 2016         Picture: Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS


The haunting images of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey after the small boat carrying his parents and other refugees—including twelve other victims—capsized before they could reach the Greek Island of Kos, were enough to place what some have called the greatest refugee crisis since World War II at the forefront of international political discourse. In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has campaigned for an equitable but generous distribution of the refugee population not only among EU member states but also throughout the prosperous world. In North America, recently elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama, have both voiced a desire for their respective governments to help alleviate the suffering of refugees.

Openness towards an hospitable but intelligently managed reception of a limited number of refugees has not been uniform among world leaders and politicians. In Europe for example, the leader of the French Front National, Marine Le Pen, and Hungary’s President Viktor Orban have both condemned Merkel’s approach to the crisis on grounds of naïve idealism and reckless moral posturing. In the United States, Donald Trump recently made headlines for seriously entertaining the idea of a travel ban on Muslims. Other Republican presidential candidates have condemned this idea for its unjustifiably excessive encroachment on the freedoms of citizens and foreigners alike, but remain skeptical about whether current efforts to take in refugees can provide a reasonable balance between ensuring the safety of citizens and fulfilling the nation’s humanitarian duties. The concern over national security, exacerbated by the terrorism of late 2015 in Paris and Egypt, is now cited as the primary reason some Americans hesitate to fully embrace proposals to temporarily relocate a relatively small number of refugees. Others point to the allegedly adverse impact of foreign migrants on the economy, whether from Central America or from the Middle East, and the need to safeguard the nations’ cultural identity in response to the increasing immigration of individuals with alien religious and political allegiances.

In spite of the political complexities attached to the issue of immigration, both in Europe and The United States, the essays included in this exclusive offer bold and original arguments for adopting well-known moral, economic, and political strategies—on both ends of the political spectrum—to deal with a world where millions of people are seeking to relocate to secure better lives for themselves and their families.


Article #1: “The Syrian Refugee Crisis & The Two Europes” by Christian Joppke (University of Bern)

This article shows that two very different conceptions of Europe have transpired in the Syrian refugee crisis: a Christian Europe in Hungary’s and other Eastern European countries’ rejection of Syrian refugees, and a liberal multiculturalist Europe in Germany’s rather unexpected open door policy, which incidentally shows that “multiculturalism is not dead”, as, among others, the German chancellor herself had argued not long ago. Germany, in fact, now sports one of the most modern and liberal immigration policies in Europe. A strategic motif behind the “humanitarian” acceptance of at least 1 million refugees in 2015 alone is to help resolve its grave demographic problem of an aging population.

Christian Joppke holds a chair in sociology at the University of Bern (CH). He is also a Visiting Professor in the Nationalism Studies Program at Central European University, Budapest, and an Honorary Professor in the Department of Political Science and Government at Aarhus University (Denmark). He is Member of the German Expert Council on Integration and Migration (SVR). He recently published Legal Integration of Islam (with John Torpey) (Harvard UP 2013), and The Secular State Under Siege: Religion and Politics in Europe and America (Cambridge: Polity 2015). His latest book, Multiculturalism in the Constitutional State: Crisis and Persistence, will be published in 2016.

Article #2: “Philosophy & The Refugee Crisis: How Can We Begin To Think About The Issue?” by Andy Lamey (University of California, San Diego)

Philosophers can potentially improve the situation of refugees by making the case for a more expansive definition of refugees than is currently accepted. Philosophers in turn may benefit from thinking about justice with refugees in mind. A theory of justice that takes into account the situation of refugees will likely be better than one that does not. Refugees forcefully raise one of the central questions of political philosophy, that of who should belong to a political community. Examining this question as it pertains to refugees should cause us to recognize that a minimally acceptable understanding of community must be able to accommodate the needs of desperate strangers who are no longer protected by their governments. Philosophy, finally, has a role to play in addressing whether the modern regime of border control is morally defensible, and if it is not, what type of arrangement should take its place.

Andy Lamey teaches philosophy at the University of California, San Diego and is the author of Frontier Justice: The Global Refugee Crisis and What to Do About It (Doubleday Canada/University of Queensland Press), from which portions of this article are drawn.

Article #3: “Philosophy & The Refugee Crisis: What Are The Hard Questions?” by Michael Blake (University of Washington)

The role of the political philosopher, I argue, is to provide moral clarity and guidance in areas in which there are confusions about what our shared political institutions ought to do. This means, though, that there is at best a limited role for the philosopher in response to the refugee crisis; what is lacking here is not primarily clarity about the moral rights of these migrants, but the political will to respond adequately to those rights. I conclude the paper by discussing five questions, all of which emerge from the refugee crisis, for which philosophical clarity and analysis might prove beneficial.

Michael Blake is Professor of Philosophy and Public Affairs, and Director of the Program on Values in Society, at the University of Washington. He received his bachelor’s degree in Economics and Philosophy from the University of Toronto, and a Doctorate in Philosophy from Stanford University. He writes on global justice and migration. His most recent book, co-written with Gillian Brock, is Debating Brain Drains: May Governments Restrict Emigration? (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Article #4: “Liberal Democratic States & The Problem Of The Refugee” by Matthew Gibney (Oxford University)

In this piece I try to understand why, despite the fact that they set up many barriers to prevent the entry of refugees, liberal democratic states maintain a commitment to the institution of asylum. I consider a number of reasons for this schizophrenic response before arguing that it is rooted in a tension between the liberal and democratic values professed by these states. I consider a number of recent attempts by political philosophers to try to resolve this tension in the realm of immigration.

Matthew J Gibney is Elizabeth Colson Professor of Politics and Forced Migration at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, and Fellow of Linacre College, Oxford. He is a political scientist who has written widely on issues relating to refugees, migration control and citizenship from the perspectives of normative political theory and comparative politics.

Article #5: “Refugee Neighbours & Hostipitality” by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (University College London) and Yousif M. Qasmiyeh (University of Oxford)

Most refugees from the Syrian conflict have remained within the Middle East, seeking sanctuary in neighbouring countries. Support has been offered not only by citizens, but also by protracted refugees who had sought sanctuary in Lebanon and Jordan long before the outbreak of the conflict in Syria or the violence that has engulfed the region since 2010. These ‘established protracted refugees’ – including in particular Palestinians and Iraqis in Lebanon and Jordan – have offered key forms of assistance and protection to ‘new refugees’ from Syria through what we can call ‘refugee-refugee humanitarianism.’ The example of ‘established’ Palestinian refugees offering humanitarian support to ‘new’ refugees situates these refugees as active providers of support, rather than dependent recipients; equally, it reflects the extent to which refugee camps can become ‘shared spaces’, spaces to which ‘new’ refugees can head in search of safety. However, far from idealising these responses, this example simultaneously raises key questions: to what extent are local responses to conflict characterised by power imbalances, processes of exclusion and overt hostility? And how sustainable can refugee-refugee humanitarianism be in contexts of widespread precariousness and violence? This article examines these and other dynamics through two key lenses. Firstly, it applies Jacques Derrida’s notion of hostipitality to explore the relationship between welcoming and rejecting neighbours in times of conflict and peace alike. Secondly, it reflects upon the multiple meanings and the etymology of the term ‘neighbour’ itself; rather than tracing the etymology in English and its various settings, we offer a brief note on its meaning in Arabic, the language spoken by the majority of refugees displaced from Syria to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and by the majority of the neighbouring communities which have hosted refugees from Syria in the first two of these.

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh is Lecturer in Human Geography, Co-Director of the Migration Research Unit, and the coordinator of the Refuge in a Moving World research network at University College London. Her recent publications include The Ideal Refugees: Gender, Islam and the Sahrawi Politics of Survival (Syracuse University Press, 2014), The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (Oxford University Press, 2014), and South-South Educational Migration, Humanitarianism and Development: Views from the Caribbean, North Africa and the Middle East (Routledge, 2015). In October 2015, Elena was awarded a 2015 Philip Leverhulme Prize, which will support her on-going research into South-South humanitarian responses to conflict-induced displacement in the Middle East.

Yousif M. Qasmiyeh is a poet, translator, and Tutor in Arabic at the Language Centre, University of Oxford. His articles have been published in the Journal of Refugee Studies, and in edited collections including Rescripting Religion in the City: Migration and Religious Identity in the Modern Metropolis (Ashgate, 2013) and Being Palestinian: Personal Reflections on Palestinian Identity in the Diaspora (Edinburgh University Press, 2016). His poetry and translations have appeared in Critical QuarterlySee How I Land (Heaventree Press, 2009), The Oxonian Review, and Modern Poetry in Translation.

Article #6: “Moral Obligations To Refugees: Theory, Practice & Aspiration” by Serena Parekh (Northeastern University)

What moral obligations do we have to needy non-citizens like refugees? Moral responsibilities to refugees are usually thought of as responsibilities to take in or resettle refugees. Yet I argue that given the realities of forced displacement in the 21st century – most importantly, that the vast majority of refugees remain in refugee camps or other spaces of containment for prolonged periods of time and only around 1% of refugees are ever resettled in Western states – that we must take seriously the moral obligations we have to the forcibly displaced while they are between homes, that is, between the initial displacement from their home states and either returning to or finding a new one. We ought to morally evaluate policies that aim to contain refugee flows far from Western shores and prevent refugees from seeking asylum. This responsibility can be understood as a kind of political responsibility grounded in our participation in the global refugee regime.

Picture: Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University
Picture: Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University12/04/15 - BOSTON, MA. - Serena Parekh, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University poses for a portrait.

Serena Parekh is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University in Boston, where she is the director of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program and editor of the American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy. Her primary philosophical interests are in social and political philosophy, feminist theory, and continental philosophy. Her book, Hannah Arendt and the Challenge of Modernity: A Phenomenology of Human Rights, was published in 2008 and translated into Chinese. She has also published numerous articles on social and political philosophy in Hypatia, Philosophy and Social Criticism, and Human Rights Quarterly. Her current research focuses broadly on global justice, responsibility, and statelessness. Her book, Refugees and the Ethics of Forced Displacement, is forthcoming with Routledge in 2016.

Article #7: “Refugees & Economic Migrants: A Morally Spurious Distinction” by Kieran Oberman (Edinburgh University)

Imagine a health care system operating according to the following principle: rather than treating the sick and injured, it treats only those who are sick or injured for particular reasons. Victims of assault are seen to; those suffering from disease or malnutrition are ignored. Doctors attend to a superficial knife wound, but walk past a man having a stroke. Such a health care system would be absurd, right? Yet it is precisely this kind of absurdity that characterises current asylum policy. Only some of those who are in desperate need of a new home can claim asylum. Those fleeing persecution have a right to remain; those fleeing economic hardship are routinely excluded. This makes no moral sense at all.

Kieran Oberman is a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh.  His research is in various areas of political philosophy, including war, poverty and migration and has appeared in EthicsAmerican Political Science Review and Political Studies. His forthcoming article, “Immigration as a Human Right“, and other pre-publications, are available from He is a co-director of the Just World Institute.

Article #8: “Do Prosperous Democracies Have A Right To Keep Out Desperate Foreigners?” by Arash Abizadeh (McGill University)

Democracy requires that those who are subject to the state’s exercise of political power be those who have a say over how that power is exercised over them. In regulating their borders, states exercise power over outsiders. To be truly democratic, a state must give voice to outsiders when it determines its border laws.

Arash Abizadeh (MPhil Oxford, PhD Harvard) teaches political theory at McGill University. My research focusses on democratic theory and questions of identity, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism; immigration and border control; the relation between the passions, rhetoric, discourse, practical reason, and politics; and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century philosophy, particularly Hobbes and Rousseau.

Article #9: “Beyond Borders: Towards A Right To International Movement” by Phil Cole (University of West England)

Arguments for freedom of international movement are often based on negative criticisms of immigration controls – that any ethical justification for the rights of states to control immigration fail. In this article I outline the shape of a positive argument for freedom of international movement, taking a human rights approach. What could ground a human right to freedom of international movement?

Phillip Cole is Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of the West of England, Bristol, and a Visiting Professor in Applied Philosophy with the Social Ethics Research Group, University of South Wales. He has written extensively on the ethics of migration, including Philosophies of Exclusion: Liberal Political Theory and Immigration (Edinburgh University Press 2000) and, with Christopher Heath Wellman, Debating the Ethics of Immigration: Is There a Right to Exclude? (Oxford University Press 2011).

Article #10: “Emigration & Social Justice” by Christine Straehle (University of Ottawa)

What should we think about the possible negative effects of high-skilled emigration from developing countries? The consequences of skilled outmigration go beyond losing valuable professionals: because public finances of sending countries deteriorate due to the loss in investment return, some countries can’t actually employ the high-skilled professionals who remain for lack of funds. The so-called ‘brain drain’ can challenge the capacity of the state of origin to provide for necessary services – here I discuss in particular medical services. They also question the right to exit one’s country of origin. This right has indeed been subject of much debate among political philosophers, in particular among those concerned with justice in migration regimes, both from a global and social justice perspective. I agree with those who argue that providing for individual opportunities should be an important goal when thinking about migration. Individuals should be able to access opportunities through migration. Yet a concern for protecting the liberty rights of (some) individuals is not sufficient to justify their migration, if their migration may negatively affect the liberty and welfare rights of their compatriots. However, instead of putting the burden of addressing the problems of the unjust world we live in onto the shoulder of individuals, by prohibiting them from leaving their societies of origin and making exit conditional, I believe that we need to actively promote systems of ‘pay for work’ for recruiting rich countries instead. The problem of brain drain is a systemic problem in the unjust world we live in, where health care systems are national and reliant on national resources, whereas competition for medical professionals is global.

Christine Straehle is Associate Professor of Applied Ethics at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and crossappointed to the department of Philosophy at the University of Ottawa. She has written on issues of global justice, health and migration. Her latest research examines vulnerability as a concept in global justice theory and health in particular. She has published on questions raised by surrogacy, health inequality and health risk. Her work has appeared in a variety of journals, such as Bioethics, Politics, Philosophy and Economics and the Journal of Applied Philosophy. She is the editor or co-editor of several books, including Health Inequalities and Global Justice (2012) and of a volume on Vulnerability in Context.

Article #11: “The Right To Exit, No-Exit Policies & The Global Fight Against Terror” by Patti Lenard (University of Ottawa)

This article considers an under-assessed dimension of immigration policy that has been conscripted as a soldier in the fight against terrorism: the set of policies recently adopted and proposed which serve to restrict the movement of individuals who are travelling with the intended or assumed intention to commit acts of terror, including no-fly lists, passport cancellations, and travel bans. I examine the policies themselves; I consider the meaning of security, as a justification for rights restricting policies; I consider the right to exit as well as the duties it imposes on states; and finally, I consider whether the security justifications offered for these policies are adequate. I conclude that the burden of proof that ought to be met, to justify restricting the right to exit, has not been met.

Patti Tamara Lenard is Associate Professor of Ethics in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa. She is the author of Trust, Democracy and Multicultural Challenges (Penn State, 2012). Her research focuses on the moral questions raised by immigration in an era of security, as well as on multiculturalism, trust/social cohesion, and democratic theory. She is Principle Investigator of a Public Safety funded project that focuses on the experience of Muslim Canadians, in particular their response to immigration policy change, in an increasingly securitized political environment.

Article #12: “Juan Crow & The Future Of Immigration Reform” by José Jorge Mendoza (University of Massachusetts, Lowell)

This essay explores the philosophical and policy implications of “Juan Crow,” which is a phrase used to refer to the systematic undermining of the civil rights and equal protections of Latino/a citizens in the United States by internal immigration enforcement. This essay argues that resolving Juan Crow is especially difficult in today’s political climate given that the two dominant models for immigration reform—“enforcement-first” and “comprehensive immigration reform”—both agree that stricter immigration enforcement is necessary for any kind of immigration reform to happen. This consensus on stricter immigration enforcement has relegated discussions of Juan Crow to debates over federalism (e.g., states’ rights) and centralism (e.g., executive action). In these debates, Juan Crow appears to expose a weakness in federalism and thereby to speak in favor of a more centralized approach to immigration justice. This essay, however, argues that Juan Crow should be seen as a challenge to the consensus that has formed around stricter enforcement and that it actually has little to do with the debate between federalism and centralism. This essay concludes by suggesting that the most effective way to respond to Juan Crow is to have immigration enforcement comply with two standards, equality of burdens and universal protections, that would entail less draconian immigration policies and more open borders than we currently have or that are being proposed.

José Jorge Mendoza is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and is co-editor of Radical Philosophy Review. His areas of specialization are moral and political philosophy, philosophy of race, and Latin American philosophy. His research is on issues of global justice and in particular on the tension between democratic autonomy (i.e., a peoples’ right to self-determination) and universal human rights. Recently, his focus has been on the issue of immigration with the purpose of providing a philosophical defense of immigrant rights.

Article #13: “Mothers Versus Texas: Ethical Problems With Local ‘Attrition Through Enforcement’ Ordinances In the United States” by Stephanie J. Silverman (SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Ottawa).

A recent case in Texas debates whether immigration enforcement mechanisms should be decided at the local level; such a diffusion of decision-making should be avoided because it risks arbitrariness, injustice, and cementing a toxic conception of difference.

Dr. Stephanie J. Silverman holds a Social Sciences and Humanities Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, and is an adjunct professor in the Ethics, Society, and Law Program at Trinity College, University of Toronto. She completed her DPhil in Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford in 2013, with a specialization in political theory. She has previously held a postdoctoral fellowship at Osgoode Hall Law School, and a research fellowship at the Refugee Research Network, York University. She is the co-editor of Immigration Detention: The Migration of a Policy and Its Human Impact (Routledge) as well as the author of book chapters, working papers, policy briefs, and peer-reviewed articles in CRISPP, Forced Migration Review, Politics & Policy, Population, Space and Place, and Refuge.

Article #14: “Why Progressives Should Support Reducing Immigration” by Philip Cafaro (Colorado State University)

Common sense suggests that a growing population leads to sprawling development and greater crowding, more pollution and less room on the landscape for other species. Common sense and economic theory suggest that flooding labor markets drives down wages for less skilled workers, undermines unionizing efforts and increases economic inequality. I argue that when it comes to immigration-driven population growth, common sense is right. Political progressives favoring a relatively equal distribution of wealth, economic security for workers and their families, the creation of ecologically sustainable societies, and the political empowerment of common citizens, should support reducing immigration into the United States.

Philip Cafaro is professor of philosophy at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado and an affiliated faculty member of CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability. His main research interests are in environmental ethics, population and consumption issues, and wild lands preservation. Cafaro is the author of Thoreau’s Living Ethics: Walden and the Pursuit of Virtue and How Many Is Too Many? The Progressive Argument for Reducing Immigration into the United States, just published by the University of Chicago Press. He currently serves as President of the International Society for Environmental Ethics and on the editorial board of the journal Biological Conservation.

Article #15: “Bernie Sanders, The Koch Brothers & Open Borders” by Peter Higgins (Eastern Michigan State University)

The idea of open borders has been debated by philosophers and political theorists since the 1970s, but it is virtually never mentioned by politicians or in mainstream news media. Open borders is generally regarded as a radical leftist proposal, which made the already surprising discussion of it by US Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in a recent interview even more surprising: Sanders denounced open borders as a “right-wing,” “Koch brothers” proposal that would be harmful to American workers. However correct Sanders may be to be skeptical of the open borders proposal, the nationalist grounding of his opposition to open borders cannot survive critical moral scrutiny.

Peter Higgins is an associate professor of Philosophy and department member in Women’s and Gender Studies at Eastern Michigan University. He completed his Ph.D. in Philosophy and a Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2008. Dr. Higgins specializes in social and political philosophy and generally focuses on issues that are global in scope, approaching them from a feminist perspective. His book Immigration Justice was published in 2013 (Edinburgh University Press).


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