Given the continuing massive disparities in wealth between Europe and Africa, immigration is unlikely to stop anytime soon. Remittances sent by migrants are the second most important income source for many countries in the south. Border control is expensive and ineffective. So why not open the borders? Free migration for all?
One of the most prominent lobbies to back the idea of opening up all our frontiers is the free-market right:
Free marketeers point out that in 2005 over a third of Europe’s regions were facing a declining labour force. Immigration, they argue, fills this need, and it also fills skills shortages (in both low and high skilled jobs) that will allow our economy to grow.
Such proposals may seem like a further extension of the dominion of the market: it would be businesses who effectively control the borders they have long since bypassed. However, in another sense such proposals are essentially a vanguard action; they preserve existing notions of citizenship, and immigration follows the model of the German guest worker, or gastarbeiter. (...) They priveledge capital’s need for labour and do not address the humanitarian problems of immigration. As Max Frisch noted of the Turkish gastarbeiter: ‘We called for a workforce, but we got humans.’
The political left forms the other part of the open borders movement:
Raffaele Marchetti argues that we shouldn’t think about open borders in terms of how it can benefit us, but in terms of the universal right to free movement. Why should Europeans be allowed to holiday wherever they want while Africans cannot even come to Europe to work?
Such a proposal has a number of humanitarian advantages. You stop people trafficking and the attendant loss of life and human rights violations, as people would be able to enter the country legitimately. Then there is the massive financial cost of maintaining Fortress Europe which would be saved. A recent report by the International Organisation of Migration shows that five OECD countries spent two-thirds as much on border controls as they did in official development assistance. Removing this boundaries would also mean removing the massive humane cost of people trying to scale the wall and cross the sea to get to Europe.
Strangely enough, I've written a piece about the same topic at the same time (in Norwegian), inspired by an article about a new book by political scientist Jonathon Moses (Norwegian University of Science and Technology). In International Migration: Globalization's Last Frontier he argues for free mobility.
He adds an economic and historic perspective and shows that free migration helps fighting poverty in a much more effective way than free trade (and development aid).
On his website you can download - among others:
Exit, vote and sovereignty: migration, states and globalization
Increased mobility is shown to improve the responsiveness of governments to citizen demands. In a world characterized by relatively free mobility for other factors of production (and their owners), labor/voters appear to be handicapped by being prisoners of territory.
For a good summary for see also Kevin H. O’Rourke (2003): The Era of Free Migration: Lessons for Today
Both Kevin H. O’Rourke and Jonathon Moses remind us of the fact that borders are a relatively new phenomenon and therefore claims for open borders are not unrealistic. According to the book Norsk innvandringshistorie (Norwegian immigration history), the Norwegian government decided in 1870 that borders are outdated, something that belong to despotic regimes.
But O'Rourke stresses in The Era of Free Migration: Lessons for Today the important role of the national state. Labour market regulation (e.g. minimum working ages, the prohibition of night work, limits on the working day or factory inspections) and social insurance (e.g. accident compensation; or unemployment, sickness or old age insurance) are neccessary, otherwise native workers' living standards would inevitably be eroded by mass immigration (wage dumping / social dumping)
More Global Apartheid? (The South African system came to an end just as the rest of the world was reinventing it in new forms.)