On Immigration and Refugees

Some General Principles

What ought our policy be towards immigrants (4)? We must consider the identity of a state, because this may determine admittance criterion (4).

We may consider race to be part of the state’s identity and necessary for entrance (5). Maybe religion is the state’s identity for others as in Islamic countries (5)? Maybe national language is the state’s identity?

in the world as it now is, and as it will doubtless be for many centuries yet, no state ought to take race, religion or language as essential to its identity (6).

Why so? Every country has a minority population that would be persecuted or discriminated, through government or citizen action, in such a case (6).

If it is not to be grounded in a common ethnicity, religion or language, it must be grounded in shared ideals, a shared vision of the society it is striving to create (7).

How can states which are solely founded as havens of the persecuted, like Israel, define themseleves otherwise (8)? What should we think of the principle of national self-determination (8)?

This principle, to give every nation a state to inhabit, came out of the treaty of Versailles. The criteria is circular and non-sensical (9).

if we recognise a group of people as forming a nation according to whether it has a territory it can call its own, the principle that a group is entitled to belong to a separate state if it constitutes a nation is no guide at all (10).

The underlying principle is the right to first-class citizenship (10). To live free of oppression (10).

It is the need to implement the rights of all to be first-class citizens that ought to dominate every redrawing of boundaries and every response to calls for independence (10).

Failure to do so may incite nationalist sentiment in minorites that (if granted independence) produce nations which go on to oppress their minorities.

The principle opponents of immigration appeal to is this:

The right is one possessed by groups united by race, religion, language or culture: such groups have a right not to be submerged (14).

A small number of minorities cannot “swamp” culture (14). Influential cultures like the US can have vastly more influence on other countries like Britain without a significant immigrant presence (15).

Submergence by immigration is possible, but this is usually a product of colonial meddling (15).

A nation has a right not to be submerged because its citizens deserve a shared sense of customs and language (17). Immigrants have other obligrations (17).

If he himself has immigrated to the country... he will share with those other immigrants some customs and perhaps a mother tongue diferent from the native majority. [But] he will have adapted to a large degree, adopting some of the indigenous customs and superimposing them on those he brought with him (17)

Fusing distinct cultural traditions is necessary, although acculturation is easier with subsequent generations (18). This is entirely up to the immigrants themselves to handle (18).

The need to feel at “home” is human (18). A loyalty and identification with a particular area and people is a natural desire (19).

That is why it is an injustice that immigration should ever be allowed to swell to a size that threatens the indigenous population with being submerged. It is very seldom that there is a genuine danger of this (20).

It has happened in places like East Timor and Tibet (20). But often the justification of the right not to be submerged is used illegitimately against admitting small amounts of immigrants (20). A robust culture assimilates immigrants, but also absorbs features to it’s benefit (20).

No state should identify itself on basis of race, religion or language (21). Not even Israel (21).

Duties of a State to Refugees

Political philosophy has primarily concerned itself with a state’s duties to its citizens, but not its duties to those who aren’t (22).

Egalitarians believe that all people are accorded absolutely equal treatment, not just equal opportunity (23). States have an obligation to adjust for inherited inequality (23).

Laissez-faire views, like those of Nozick, reject these arguments (24). They focus on an individual’s entitlement to fully utilize their unequal advantages (24).

However, small inequalities snowball into larger ones and societies have major problems with inequality (24). This inequality is present on an international level (25).

The horrifying inequalities that often exist within any one such society are outstripped by the yet more horrifying inequalities between rich countries and poor ones—a disparity with the most powerful effect on migration between them (25).

Closing this inequality gap should be a pressing concern (25).

All humans have universal human rights which all others must respect (26). So too do states have obligations to other states, for example to not invade them unprovoked (26). Implicit here is that there are moral duties of a state to the citizens of another (26).

If there are moral duties, what are they towards prospective immigrants (27)? There are definite moral duties towards one’s own citizens with regard to residence (28):

You may enter and live in the territory of the state of which you are a citizen even if you are the enemy of that state, or a threat to it (28).

If everyone has this right, what happens if they are expelled from their country (28)? They must have the right to live somewhere, this is a human right (29).

But what of adults who find themselves stateless? They are plainly entitled to be granted a nationality (30).

International cooperation requiring countries to accept stateless individuals is the only way to resolve this (30).

Politicians frequently mention a state’s unhindered soverignty to control its borders, but fail to mention its international duties to refugees under international law (31).

Every human being has a right to refuge from persecution: to deny refuge to the persecuted is to deny them their due; it is a manifest injustice (32).

European governments are not diligent with regard to this obligation, quickly sending back asylum seekers where they are often arrested and persecuted (33).

States have an obligation to prevent this (34).

People denied the minimal conditions for a life free from terror and allowing them a basic dignity are entitled to call on others to grant them such conditions. To deny this is to hold that we have at most only negative duties towards strangers: that, for example, we may not kill them, but have no duty to protect them from being killed. This is quite false. To refuse help to others suffering from or threatened by injustice is to collaborate with that injustice, and so incur part of the responsibility for it (34).

It would be wrong to think that, while individuals have such a duty towards strangers, the state need concern itself only with its own citizens. The state is the representative of its nationals, and acts in their name; in a democratic society, it acts at their behest. It must therefore act collectively in accordance with the moral duty laid on its citizens as individuals. It follows that the claim for refuge of those who flee from persecution should be universally recognised (35).

Determining which countries have this obligation are difficult (35). The countries which accept the most refugees are often some of the poorest (36).

When countries do accept refugees, they have an obligation to be compassionate (41). They also must not artificially determine asylum seekers (43).

Governments often act indignant towards those providing pathways to illegal immigration, but the blame rests largely on the measures taken by governments to subvert their duties to refugees under international law (44).

The Duties of a State to Immigrants

Countries serve as representations of the its collective citizens (46). It therefore has duties (46).

The citizens of any country have individual moral obligations to any other human beings whom their actions or failures to act may affect: they therefore have, as a body, collective moral obligations to citizens of other countries (46).

Politicians frequently reject this duty (47). They also have no incentive to care as foreigners cannot vote for them (48).

Despite the current popularity of strict immigration control, history has seen many proponents of open borders (49).

However, there is a competing right of a people not to be submerged, so immigration control can be justified in such cases (50).

Any country has the right to limit immigration if its indigenous population is in serious danger of being rapidly overwhelmed (52).

Gradual influx, even in large numbers, is acceptable because of assimilation (52). Only rapid immigration is dangerous (52).

Should we start from the assumption that immigrants have the right move freely (53)? While admitting refugees may be an invioable right, accepting immigrants is a conditional right that may be limited (57). However:

The presumption for individuals is always in favour of freedom: there must be a particular ground why any state is entitled to curtail that freedom, if indeed it is. So the right of a state to refuse entry to anyone wishing to enter its territory must always be grounded in a specific reason. The onus of proof always lies with a claim to a right to exclude would-be immigrants (57).

What are legitimate ground to exclude them (57)?

Grounds for Refusal

Most are grounded in racial prejudice, which is certainly not a permissible reason (58). Exclusion policies are usually the product of the entrance of a small number of immigrants (59). It’s an act of racism (59).

It cannot be admitted that any state has a right to refuse entry to intending immigrants because of their race, any more than an employer has a right to refuse applicants for jobs for that reason (60).

Formerly this was the overt reason for rejection, in the US and Australia, but now the true motive is hidden (62). They use excuses like purported overpopulation, claimed by British politicians even though there was net emigration from the country (63). This could be a valid reason against immigration if only the facts supported the argument (63).

Immigration can have a positive effect economically (64), especially in countries with aging populations (65).

Other arguments have been put forth that are invalid. Immigrants and refugees are often skilled, are not a drain on welfare services, and do not cause unemployment (67).

Massive income inequality between nations is the root of much immigration (68).

Yet, until the condition of the impoverished countries has been improved, justice also requires that the rich countries should not shut their doors against the poor (69).

Illegal immigration is a great evil, not because of the immigrants themselves, but because of a state’s deniable of their right to immigrate (71).

national statesmen should cease to say on behalf of the states for which they speak, ‘Ours is a sovereign nation which has, in virtue of its sovereignty, the right to decide who may enter our country and who may not’. Instead, they ought to say, ‘We represent our nation among the community of nations, and therefore have no right to erect barriers against people of other countries wishing to enter ours’ (72).

These changes can only come with a national change in attitude, one committed to eliminating xenophobia and racism (77).


Citizens participate in the political process by electing those who govern them (79). As argued before, the state has obligations to more than just it’s citizens, but also to all humans (81).

If we agree that immigrants in general be accepted, should they also be allowed to vote (82)? If we accept the logic of “no taxation without representation” the answer is yes (82).

Due to populist sentiment, this may not be a prudent idea (83), so liberal naturalization proceses may be preferred (84).

How Immigration was Made a Menace in Britain

Persistent racist attitudes have existed in Britain and continued in a less overt form (89). People’s beliefs in racial superiority are not deeply held, but quite shallow, as exemplified but the quickness in which those attitudes were outwardly discarded (92).

Immigration legislature, although not overt in excluding particular races, certainly had that as its goal (94).

In the eyes of the racist, it is the presence of people against whom the prejudice is directed which constitutes the problem, not the prejudice against them (95).

Indeed, the government tacitly encourages the racism in practice to immigration officers (96). Official behavior towards immigrants has been deplorable (99).

It was not exactly sadistic behaviour: it was neurotic behaviour, induced by endless repetition, by press and politicians alike, of hysterical hate-propaganda (99).

With the passing of more bills designed to keep people out, the message was clear (99).

British public was desperately opposed to immigration; and by ‘immigration’ it understood only the entry of people with black or brown skins (104).

From Immigrants to Refugees

Asians of Goan descent living in Malawai were absudly expelled from their country (109). The media portrayed their plight as one to exploit welfare benefits (110).

Even though immigration had halted to a trickle, politicians continued to use immigration as an issue to attract racist voters (115). It could use the perception of uncontrolled immigration allowed by the other party, to attract voters to their party by promising firmer immigration legislature (116).

The hysteria has extended to refugees as politicians have begun to refer to some as “bogus asylum-seekers” and “economic migrants” (123). They did this to keep the blame game going as immigration had all but stopped (124). There were still votes to be extracted from racist sentiment (124).

Asylum-seekers are treated poorly: imposing visa restrictions (125), enacting the carrier liability act (126), and detaining them (126).

These attitudes have expanded loathing in the British public from just racism, to outright xenophobia (128). Even towards white foreigners (128).

It has happened several times that a refugee whose application has been refused and who has not even been granted Exceptional Leave to Remain has been sent back to his own country and there arrested, tortured or killed (129).

The only realistic solution to resolve these issues is to have internation cooperation with refugees’ interest at heart (134).

Racism in Other European Countries and Immigration into Them

Tight immigration control has risen in many European countries, not just Britain (137).

Islam is particularly chosen for prejudice, especially in France (139). In all European countries, Gypsies are particularly discriminated against (140). Despite accepting many immigrants as workers, and not giving them full rights, German racial violence is still present (142).

Italy, usually known for emigrated many of its people, has seen racial sentiment increase as a result of immigration (144). Their laws are humane, but in practice it does not turn out well (146). These laws have not been applied (147).

Luxembourg is the only country with acceptable immigration policies (147).

EU policies have so far not been effective in promoting cooperative and humane efforts to handle refugees and immigrants (152).