05 November 2005

Should borders be open?

Whether it’s choice or necessity, people migrate… temporarily or permanently. Perhaps, what’s important is to regulate it, manage it better, rather than put a stop to it altogether.

This was one of the viewpoints expressed when BBC News Online asked several economic and political commentators to outline their views on whether countries should operate an open border policy.

In their introduction to the online article, BBC News stated, “The issue of migration is high on the political agenda for governments around the world. Western governments are often under pressure to restrict the entry of migrants. Developing countries find themselves losing highly-skilled professionals while at the same time receiving important revenues from emigrants.”

According to Brunson McKinley, director general of the International Organization for Migration, “…when managed effectively, migration holds great potential for migrants and for host communities. The ultimate goal is not to obstruct or prevent mobility but to better manage it for the benefit of all.”

Free movement of people is supposed to be a fundamental human right, but some felt that borders are essential to nationhood and, therefore, the idea needed to be sanctified.

For instance, Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch UK, spoke against an open border policy. He stated matter-of-factly, “Given the huge disparities of wealth, open borders would lead to massive flows of people from the third world to the industrialised world until conditions there approximated to their home countries. This would be a recipe for chaos and would be entirely unacceptable to the inhabitants of the industrialised world.”

Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics at Columbia University, New York, raised another point. He felt migration was not always a matter of economics or politics. Often, communitarian arguments were brought in to moderate or to limit the flows of people across borders. In his view, creating a proper world body – something along the lines of the International Labor Organisation – to steer and regulate the process of migration could help deal with the issue.

To learn more, log on to Should Borders Be Open?

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