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Filters, Fences or Faces Migration and the moral status of borders Luke Bretherton


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Title: Filters, Fences or Faces Migration and the moral status of borders Luke Bretherton

Filters, Fences or Faces? Migration and the moral
status of borders Luke Bretherton
  • Strangers no Longer, April 20th 2007
  • University of Notre Dame, London Centre

1. Introduction
  • Borders good or bad?
  • A summary of the argument
  • those who argue for opening up borders see
    borders as a filter to keep out the bad and
    corrupt but at the same time, let in any
    individual who seeks to live in this land.
  • Those who argue for closing our borders see
    borders as a fence, a system of security and
    defence that protects and preserves what is
    inside from what is outside.
  • I want to argue that borders are a face we turn
    to the world around us which tells them what kind
    of country we are and how we want to relate to
    those around us and whether we are hostile or

1. Introduction
  • Mass migration politically morally problematic
  • It is politically problematic because it involves
    crossing borders between different nation-states
    and therefore it involves the re-negotiation of
    the fundamental political and legal status of the
    individual concerned.
  • Migration is morally problematic because current
    immigration policies adopted by all nation-states
    favour the needs of the strong (the existing
    members of a polity) over the weak (asylum
    seekers and vulnerable economic migrants).

2. Open or closed borders
  • Three basic philosophical approaches
  • Liberal utilitarians
  • Deontologists
  • Communitarians
  • Racist nationalist arguments - not
    directly considered

3. Borders as filters
  • Peter and Renata Singer argue on a utilitarian
    basis that immigration policy in general and
    refugee policy in particular should give equal
    consideration to the interests of all those
    affected and where the interests of different
    parties conflict (i.e. where the needs of
    existing citizens conflict with the needs of a
    refugee) priority should be given to those with
    the most pressing claim to have their needs met
    (i.e. the refugee or economically vulnerable).

3. Borders as filters
  • Joseph Carens, from a deontological perspective,
    argues that free movement is essential for the
    realisation of an individuals other liberties
    and thus should be considered as a basic human
    right with open borders a direct implication of
    this right.

3. Borders as filters
  • Michael Dummett argues that the requirements of
    justice are such that all states ought to
    recognise the normal principle to be that of open
    borders, allowing all freely to enter and, if
    they will, to settle in, any country they wish.

3. Borders as filters
  • Summary
  • Border controls in their view place a higher
    value on the existence of one particular
    community say Britain than on the value of an
    individual and their human rights. For them
    borders should allow free passage of individuals
    from one place to another while acting as a
    filter to keep out violent and criminal

3. Borders as filters a theological critique
  • An abstract universal love I am indifferent to
    that which constitutes a German or a Frenchman
    because I will only the good of all mankind. -
  • A particular love of particular people in
    particular places the parable of the Good
  • Oliver ODonovan notes It is essential to our
    humanity that there should be always foreigners,
    human beings from another community who have an
    alternative way of organising the task and
    privilege of being human, so that our
    imaginations are refreshed and our sense of
    cultural possibilities renewed.

4. Borders as fences
  • Michael Walzer the primary duty of care that
    members of a political community owe to each
    other is the communal provision of security and
    welfare. Maintenance of security and welfare,
    which inherently involves maintenance of the
    community itself, justifies entrance policies

4. Borders as fences
  • Michael Gibney The claims of migrants and
    refugees must be balanced against the need for
    states to protect the institutions and values of
    the liberal democratic state. He states
    liberal egalitarian principles can only be
    realised in communities where relations amongst
    citizens are characterised by solidarity and
    trust, relations which develop over time and can
    be jeopardised by large, short-term changes in

4. Borders as fences
  • Summary
  • For Walzer and Gibney, a particular liberal
    democratic state is a good thing in and of itself
    that needs upholding and protecting mass
    migration can threaten the existence of this good
    thing and so morally we need border controls to
    be fences protecting preserving what is inside

4. Borders as fences a theological critique
  • Wolfhart Pannenberg argues that the cultivation
    and upholding of a distinctive national life
    cannot be an end in itself but must be
    subordinated or come second to the concern for an
    international order of justice and freedom.

4. Borders as fences a theological critique
  • Wolfhart Pannenberg states that nations and
    union of nations (e.g. EU)
  • Should be orientated beyond their own bounds
    towards the idea of an order of justice and peace
    that should one day include all humanity, that
    is, not only the world of our friends but also
    our present enemies. Thus this sequence of
    specific unions, which must have their beginnings
    in the internal political life of each people
    that is involved … points toward the universal
    goal of a peaceful world that encompasses all

5. Borders as a face we present to the world
  • Summary
  • To think of borders in terms of the metaphor of
    the face re-orientates us to see there is value
    to be placed upon the existing community but the
    existing community is not an end in itself but is
    only fulfilled as it moves beyond itself and
    comes into relationship with those around it.
  • Borders are a means of framing and structuring
    this relationship and orientating Britain to the
    rest of the world in a way that presents an
    enquiring, confident, hospitable face rather than
    either a closed, insular, hostile face turning
    away from relationship or a hopeless, insecure
    face that is abused and lacks a sense of

Filters, Fences or Faces? Migration and the moral
status of borders Luke Bretherton Dept.
Education Professional Studies