7 reasons why we should have open borders

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7 reasons why we should have open borders

Most people agree with free movement – for themselves if not for other people. Aisha Dodwell explains why movement should be free for everyone.


Because of Brexit, three million EU citizens in Britain now do not know what will happen. They are afraid that they will have to leave when the UK leaves the EU.

The EU still feels strongly about free movement inside the single market. Europe seems impossible to enter for people outside. The borders of Europe are now the most violent in the world – more people die at Europe’s borders than any other border in the world.

If we care about poverty and justice in other countries, we need to start working towards a world where all the borders are open to everyone.

This is why:

1. Borders are like global apartheid

Borders look after the advantages of the rich people and make the poor people suffer. They stop the poorest people in the world moving to richer countries where there are more resources and opportunities.

The immigration rules we have today let people in power keep out anyone they do not want. The first law in Britain like this was the 1905 ‘Aliens Act’. It gave Britain the power to stop immigrants coming in that they didn’t want eg. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Britain still now wants to keep out the ‘unwanted’ people. Often, families have to separate because they don’t have enough money, or they say people are criminals only because they want a safe or better life.

Many of these people left their homes because of reasons they cannot control, eg. conflict, poverty, economic injustice or climate change. The UN’s Refugee Agency estimates that 20 people are forced to flee their homes every second.

There is more inequality in the world than ever before, and modern borders have become a form of global apartheid: they separate people who can and can’t get access to resources and opportunity.

2. Borders produce violence but do not stop immigration

More people die crossing borders than ever before.

Last year, more than 5,000 people died in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe. Europe did not help make their journey safe – it made the borders more difficult to cross and forced people to make more dangerous journeys.

Operation Sophia is one EU project. It is a group of Navy ships that sail in the sea near Libya to stop and destroy the boats that smugglers use to take people across. This means the journeys are now more dangerous because people now use cheaper, more dangerous rubber dinghy boats.

And at borders in places like Libya, Europe still gives money to detention camps for migrants, even though the UN has reported on a lot of abuse and violence at these camps.

If people reach Europe, they will probably suffer more violence or have to go to prison in Europe's system of detention and deportation. In Britain, more than 30,000 people are locked up in immigration detention centres each year. And the situation is the same in other rich areas of the world, where they lock out poor people. Australia sends people who want asylum to detention camps in Papua New Guinea. The USA has the largest immigration detention system: about 350,000 people went through immigration detention last year.

Mass deportation (sending many people back home to their country) means that people who can get to Europe often have to return to the same violence and problems they escaped from. Europe has many deportation schemes eg. the Joint Way Forward agreement with Afghanistan where they send people back to countries where they are at risk of persecution, torture and death.

In Britain it is clear that they want to make it very difficult for migrants. Bank managers, NHS staff and landlords often need to act like immigration officers. They have to check people’s immigration status, as borders are now more part of everyday life and the government forces migrants with no documents to hide.

But all these difficulties don’t stop people migrating. They simply make their journeys harder and often force them to use smugglers.

3. When we say migrants are responsible for low wages, this divides workers and creates a race to the bottom

If you do not let migrants work and don’t give them access to basic services, as countries like Britain do, this means they cannot contribute to society and the economy.

Then they have to work illegally, so they often earn less than the minimum wage, and this pushes down labour standards. Where they are allowed to work legally, this is not the case.

Many studies have shown that wages are not affected very much (or not at all) by immigration. For example, in Denmark, between 1991 and 2008, low-skilled wages went up because of a lot of refugees coming into the country. This is because immigrants, as well as working, also buy and use goods and take part in society, and this creates jobs.

Would people now say that women shouldn’t work because they would make the pay lower?

We shouldn’t build borders, we should organize and fight for better rights for all working people, from all countries.

4. More migrants would be able to return home safely

If we have open borders, people could move freely. This would help more immigrants return back home if it wasn’t risky to cross borders. For example, in the 1960s, 70 million Mexicans crossed into the USA, and 85 per cent of them later returned to Mexico. Now the US border has more military, it is more dangerous to move, so not so many immigrants are going back.

5. Open borders would make the world a richer place

Michael Clemens, economist, says that global GDP could double if we open the world’s borders. That is because workers earn more when they move to a richer economy. Migrant workers often send money back to their country, so migration can have a positive impact on developing countries’ economies too.

Also, most immigrant families pay more in taxes than they take in benefits.

The money should not be the most important thing, or economic growth. But we can safely say that the world’s economy would not collapse if we had open borders.

6. We can’t have free movement for some people and not for all people

Most people agree with free movement – for themselves if not for everyone.

Europeans have always had this right, for example the hundreds of thousands who migrated to North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. Citizens of rich countries still do the same now. Immigration control, with its modern meaning, is a recent idea. Before the 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Act, people from Commonwealth countries like Kenya and India could come freely to Britain. This only changed after people like Enoch Powell started to make people afraid of foreigners.

We do not often hear people who are against free movement saying that they want people to cut their rights to move, live, work, study or travel. They always say they want to cut the rights of ‘others’.

The system of border controls we have now is that where you are born controls how free you are to move. If you have a British passport, you can travel to 173 countries without a visa. If you’re from Afghanistan, you can only travel to 28 countries.

7. Capital, big business and the rich already have open borders – it’s time to open borders to everyone

People say global free movement is impossible. But it already exists – for rich people.

Borders don’t really exist for the movement of capital, and multinational companies can easily cross borders to extract resources and exploit labour.

The richest people in the world can buy citizenship of many countries, including in the EU. In Cyprus you can buy citizenship if you invest €2 million, and you can become a full resident of Portugal offers full residency if you invest only €500,000. The UK has a similar offer for a £2 million investment.

The media shouts loudly to stop desperate people fleeing the horrors of so-called Islamic State. But it says nothing about the free movement of billionaires and oligarchs – and their rights to buy luxury accommodation in cities like London, so poor people can’t live there anymore.

It is very unfair that corporate bosses can move jobs across the world, but ordinary workers do not have the freedom to move. We should control capital and free people, not the other way round.

We might not be able to open all borders tomorrow, but the first step is to begin working towards this eg. with a universal minimum wage and global standards for workers’ rights.

This might sound like an impossible dream today, but many important battles for social change in the past also seemed impossible. Then people fought for them – and won.

Aisha Dodwell is a political activist and campaigner for social justice. She is Campaigns and Policy Officer at Global Justice Now.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://newint.org/blog/2017/11/29/why-open-borders (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).