Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Will We Be Able To Justify The International Birthright Lottery To Our Grandchildren?

It is drowning season again in the Mediterranean. Over the coming months, thousands of people will die wretched little deaths in pursuit of a better life in Europe. Hundreds of thousands will risk all they have anyway, just as they do every year. And just as we do every year, we will demand that more be done to prevent them dying on our doorstep in such a visible and embarrassing way

The drowning season is an embarrassment because it threatens our moral complacency. We enjoy believing that we care about human rights and we have signed all sorts of treaties and agreements promising care to refugees fleeing lives of squalor, fear, and oppression. But we also have no serious intention of fulfilling our promises to help foreigners. That's why we make them climb into those leaky fishing boats to reach us. 

Embarrassment is discomforting. How will we deal with it? By focusing on the deaths and who is to blame - the dastardly people smugglers, the under-resourced Italian navy, sclerotic EU institutions, Libya's warring factions, the foolish refugees themselves? Or by recognising and answering the moral challenge before us. 

A Billion People Without Rights
Of course we don't want to keep our promise. We would have to accept that even according to our minimal moral standards over a billion people have a legitimate claim to our assistance. That includes: 
  • Most women in the middle-east and many in other parts of the world; 
  • Most of the world's homosexuals and other sexual minorities; 
  • Most inhabitants of failed states (like Somalia and the Central African Republic); 
  • Everyone but the elite in totalitarian regimes (like Eritrea, N. Korea, and Uzbekistan); 
  • The 12 million people without any state citizenship
  • The world's 30 million slaves
  • Much of the world's indigenous peoples (perhaps even including some of central Europe's own Roma); 
  • Religious and ethnic minorities in intolerant countries (like Pakistan and Burma); 
  • All the civilians in war zones (like Syria and South Sudan); 
  • India's untouchables; 
  • Occupied peoples (like China's Tibetans) 
  • The millions of refugees interned for decades in long-term camps in poor countries (like the Somalis living in Kenya or the ethnic Nepalis expelled by Bhutan). 
We who are lucky enough to be citizens of rich countries are understandably reluctant to live up to our moral standards once we realise the full scale of what that would require. Yet we don't want to admit that we can't have our cake and eat it too, that we can't think of ourselves as good Samaritans while studiously evading the opportunity to help others. 

It is particularly hard to avoid recognising ourselves for what we are if we are directly confronted by people in need asking for our help. For then we would have to tell them to their face that, actually, we don't care enough about them to want to help. So just as we might cross the street to avoid the pleading gaze of a beggar, we instruct our governments to protect us from being put into that morally compromising situation. Thus, European governments on the Mediterranean have spent vast amounts of money in the last decades trying to prevent such embarrassments from occurring by bribing North Africa's autocrats to 'deter' refugees from ever setting off. That particular dirty hands policy had some success, until the Arab Spring removed several of those dictators.

The result is that we proudly offer refuge and asylum to all the deserving people of the world who ask for our help, but only if they can climb over all the walls and laws we've erected to keep them from asking. The illegal immigrants who still manage to arrive are those who can afford airfares and tourist visas, a more manageable, less afflicted, class of people.

Given this, it is easy to see why news of mass drownings causes us such acute embarrassment. When refugees die trying to reach our beaches it is hard for us to avoid acknowledging how very bad their lives must have been to drive them to take such a risk for such a cold welcome. It is hard for us to avoid recognising the scale of the problem that our own moral standards identify: more than a billion people living in fear, squalor, and oppression.

So we pretend to ourselves that such events are merely individual tragedies, dramas of human suffering that play out with the inevitability of fate, simply one more aspect of the human condition. And in a sense that is true. As long as unlucky people refuse to live in squalor and oppression, and as long as lucky people like us refuse to let them share in our good fortune, refugees will continue to drown. But preventing the boats from setting out would merely prevent telegenic catastrophes that embarrass our moral bankruptcy. It would do nothing about the real tragedy of vast human suffering in the places refugees come from.

Ethics Without Borders
The strangest thing about all this is how easily we inter-nationalise our supposedly universal moral standards. The suffering of people who happen to belong to other countries is not considered to be our problem. Helping them is seen as an exercise in charity rather than a strict moral duty, an act of magnanimity that we might fit in after our day to day concerns have been taken care of. Levels of international aid, for example, are a tiny fraction of what we are willing to spend to help needy members of our own society. (I think that even our cows get more in subsidies than we spend to meet basic human needs in unlucky countries.) Helping our own is a matter of justice and a real moral priority; helping foreigners is an afterthought at best. 

It is as if our moral concern for strangers ends at our borders. Hence the peculiar fact that it is only when refugees actually manage to cross over our border that we feel any moral obligation towards them (an obligation we would prefer not to feel). We seem to be in the grip of the peculiar delusion that political borders delimit a moral boundary, with justice on the inside and mere charity on the outside.

I know there are good moral reasons for our system of nation states. In particular, they're better at achieving justice and prosperity than anything else we've tried, when they work. Yet states clearly don't always work. The persistence of large scale human suffering in a world of plenty is best explained at the level of the state: the evil, incompetence, and corruption of many national governments. 

Inter-nationalism doesn't offer very clear moral guidance in such cases. The people born into awful states hold the losing tickets in a birthright lottery that seems morally arbitrary. Can one seriously claim that Malawians don't really want or deserve things like dignity, nutrition, education, safety or justice because their parents were Malawian citizens? (I mention Malawi because I was born there; of course my parents' passports gave me an entirely different set of life chances than the babies in the cribs next to me.)

The obvious way to deal with large scale human suffering would be to address its causes by fixing the world's monstrous or broken governments. But inter-nationalism itself makes such outside interventions politically and practically difficult, as in Syria. And reform hardly seems much easier from inside, as the many failures of the Arab Spring remind us.

Yet there is something else that we could do, and that in our better moments we declare we want to do, but that we refuse to seriously contemplate at the necessary scale. We could give everyone who can escape their broken states the chance at a better life in ours. We would support their specific human rights by upholding the meta-right to migrate to a state that does work. Instead of forcing them into leaky fishing boats run by criminal thugs, we could send ships to pick them up, as we do when our citizens get caught up in conflicts abroad and need evacuating. At least we could let them take the same ferry to Europe that we take home from our holidays. 

Of course this is politically unthinkable on any scale. Even America's commitment to ideological one-upmanship couldn't sustain such an open doors immigration policy for Cuban refugees once they started arriving in large numbers. Once invented, nation states generate good political reasons for immigration control. In particular, welfare states require control over the risk and economic productivity profiles of new entrants if their insurance financing models are to be sustainable [previously]. Yet as morality this comes down to, "I got mine, Jack".

The problem with such an argument is that while it succeeds in explaining our attitudes to illegal migrants, it doesn't justify them. A justification is an argument that others could in principle accept. John Rawls' veil of ignorance is a good tool for illustrating the difference. If you didn't already know which country you would get to live in, would you choose a world with this kind of inter-national birthright lottery? And if you yourself wouldn't choose to play such a lottery, how can you claim that other people should be content with their losing tickets? 

Perhaps there are better moral arguments for immigration controls that I don't know about. Perhaps some form of communitarian/cultural identity argument that isn't racist. But I doubt it. If we who live in the lucky countries really had good moral reasons for keeping poor oppressed people from sharing our good fortune, we wouldn't be so embarrassed by their presence that we would pay dictators to keep them away. Sometimes when our moral standards don't fit with how the world works it is the world that we should change. Even if that takes a long time and a lot of work.

The Grandchild Test For Bad Ethics
Does it have to be this way? Will it always be this way? Slavery, torture, racism and so on are all now condemned around the world. Yet there was a time when they were each seen as natural, proper, and right, even by the foremost intellects of the age. They were entrenched in how the world worked and conceived as natural facts not social constructs. Questioning them was ridiculous; ending them was unthinkable. Might there also come a time when the very idea that a person's right to a decent life could be determined by what country they happened to be a citizen of - whether they had the right pieces of paper - will seem like a piece of craziness from another world? 

Are all those who went along unthinkingly with evil practises like slavery and torture morally culpable? Perhaps not. Yet there must have been a point, when counter-arguments began to be made and promulgated, at which those who went along could no longer shelter behind their ignorance of the immorality of their actions. It may be unreasonable to condemn the Romans for slavery, but one can certainly condemn those in mid-19th century America who cleaved to racialised slavery despite the abundance and superiority of the abolitionist arguments. Those who go along with injustice when they know, or should know better, are complicit in it.

Our treatment of animals seems another case in the making. Humans have long taken for granted our right to use and abuse animals to serve our interests, including the aesthetic pleasure of eating meat. That complacency cannot be sustained in the face of the increasing visibility of counter-arguments like Peter Singer's. Our practices stand in need of explicit defence or else rejection. Otherwise we may find ourselves struggling to explain our personal complicity in a great evil to our more enlightened - vegan - grandchildren, whose history books put us in the same category of monsters as white apartheid South Africans. Call this the grandchild test for bad ethics. Will we be able to defend the justice of an international birthright lottery to our grandchildren? Or will our sense of embarrassment finally turn to shame?

The case for migration rights has received its most systematic expression in Joseph Carens' The Ethics of Immigration. His arguments are still mostly unknown. Yet one can already suspect that when such arguments become visible and inescapable the status quo will not have much to call upon to defend itself. The logic is clear. The only way to reconcile a concept of universal human rights with a world of sovereign nation states is by guaranteeing the right to migration, the right to have rights, as Hannah Arendt noted in discussing the fate of the Jewish refugees in the 1930s whom no country would accept. We know this. It's why we signed all those treaties. Just because implementing the right to migration is unthinkable with the way the world is now set up does not make it any less our duty to bring that world about. 

-This essay was revised and republished April 2015
-Brett Stevens on my comment policy


  1. What would the developed nations have to give up in order to lift the underdeveloped nations to a more comfortable level? Are these steps under the control of governments or individuals?
    In your philosophy should public issues be bunched together or attacked individually? I mean, political philosophies like Marxism and liberalism make broad approaches toward social problems as a whole.
    I'm curious as to your thinking on this problem
    Howard Berman

  2. On moral cosmopolitan duties

    See Peter Singer on duties as an individual
    See Thomas Pogge on duties as a citizen (via the state)

  3. Some people would kill a person if they were sure that by doing so they would save the lives of N people (Put any number you'd feel comfortable with instead of "N").
    So I have a solution for world poverty which doesn't require killing anyone: Deny the right to procreate to those people who we are 90% (place your own percentage) sure will produce more suffering souls.

    1. 1. My essay is about living up to our moral standards against oppression.

      2. Oppression has nothing much to do with population levels

      3. Invading countries to forcibly sterilise their populations is not in keeping with our moral standards. It would turn us from hypocrites into oppressors in our own right.

  4. Interesting and uncomfortable. Helicopter gunships would be clear and effective but would give the lie to humanitarianism, so cut the budget and hope no-one notices. But Mr Big provokes a big tragedy, much fluttering among the headless chicken and back to business. V predictable.

    I suppose at the root of this is our animal nature, that old instinct to keep that tribe of monkeys from pinching our bananas and our prettiest girl (or boy) monkeys. From this evolved our tribal leader - warlord - king - dictator/president model of government keeping all the trappings of power just a little better hidden. We need to grow up a bit and lighten up on 'our'.

    Just suppose the world were economically and politically 'flat' - the same everywhere. What would such a world look like and what would have to change? Then I suppose there would be no particular advantage apart from whim to move from place to place and no particular reason to prevent such movement. Manhattan would be much the same as Marrakesh, one a bit poorer and one a lot richer. Our great grandchildren might like that except if they came from Manhattan.

    Or we might go for a one-in v one-out policy. Voluntary or involuntary. A bit tough to organise but I have a little list. Then there comes the little difficulty of the optimal numbers living in Manhattan and Marrakesh

    1. An economically flat world - where 'free trade' includes the free movement of labour (people) as well as goods and capital. Things would equalise pretty quickly according to economic theory.

      That might not necessarily be a politically flat world though. If people had real exit rights we might see a greater variety in morally acceptable political regimes such as non-democracies.

      e.g. Iran's theocracy wouldn't be nearly so objectionable if its people were free to choose other countries to live in. Its power over its citizens would be much less, more like how members of an Amish community in Pennsylvania relate to their church.

  5. I don't have any moral arguments against immigration, but the practical argument is that there comes a limit where increased immigration puts democratic political systems at risk. It's easy for a democratic society to be pro-immigration as long as everyone enjoys employment, compensations for misfortune and a comfortable retirement. But when the economy isn't doing well, when unemployed and relatively impoverished natives start feeling that their lives are going badly, then there's going to be resistance against immigration. And if immigration resistance doesn't get a parliamentary voice, people will become disaffected with democracy itself and mobilize against it.

    I'm not saying that Europe as a whole is anywhere near this limit now, although Greece seems to be drawing closer to it with the rising popularity of Golden Dawn. But I do think it's a bit naive to discuss immigration as a purely moral question, as if our democracies could easily absorb hundreds of millions of refugees and keep ticking as before.

    1. Is this a practical problem in terms of costs, or a political problem in terms of the moral attitudes of rich world citizens?

      I think it's the latter. Let me introduce a new rule of thumb. If Lebanon can do it, so can we. Well in the case of Syria, Lebanon has now taken in more than a million refugees. They make up more than 20% of the country's population. Of course Lebanon is having a hard time looking after so many people for so long. But it shows what level of generosity is possible when the political will is there.

    2. A 'hard time'? Lebanon is exactly the reason it WOULD NOT work. Lebanon is on the verge of economic and political collapse because of the humanitarian crisis. The refugees are about to be no better off than before. And then where are you? You've created greater suffering that you tried to alleviate.

    3. @anon. Lebanon has indeed taken an extraordinary risk to do the right thing. Especially given their recent memory of their own civil war, which also involved militant refugees. Generally speaking the great majority of refugees wind up in camps in next door countries, like the huge Somali camps in Kenya. I.e. it is generally the poorest countries that bear the greatest refugee burden, the very ones, unlike France or Britain, that really can't afford to do so.

      My point is that, if we had the political will, we rich countries could do a much better job of providing for Syria's war refugees than Lebanon and Jordan. Thus, in line with your own argument, preventing the suffering from spreading to other countries.

    4. I don't understand why people think we HAVE to do anything for refugees. Sure, it's a good thing, but why this idea of obligation?

  6. You're interpreting a policy problem as a personal one. This form of projection and transference always leads to bad results.

    1. Certainly. The question of "birthright lottery" is phrased from the point of view of the individual, not the important question of what makes the best civilization. An individual may be dismayed that he lives in a lower-income area, but that does not mean that the best solution is to hop on a boat for elsewhere.

    2. As far as I understand your comment, I already addressed it. It would be great if Eritrea stopped being a giant prison camp, and Syria could be at peace. Do you have a plan to make that happen? Otherwise, what do you expect these people to do? Wait?

    3. A bad solution is not a substitute for another bad solution. It sounds to me like you have addressed the problems: Eritrea needs to stop being a giant prison camp, and Syria needs political stability. Those are the only solutions; everything else is compensatory behavior.

  7. I'm not really sure that I follow the argument of this post. Certainly there's a huge number of people in the world living in want, hunger, and suffering. And I'm perfectly aware that every time (say) I buy a sandwich at Marks and Spencer I might equally well have spent the money in saving someone's life by way of donating the same amount to an international medical aid programme.

    But I'm not sure what this post is suggesting. That up to a billion people should be granted the legal right to relocate to the UK? This is clearly absurd. That we should be "fixing the world's monstrous or broken governments"? Chance would be a fine thing.

    I suppose my core point is that the world is complicated beyond comprehension, and that politics in the widest sense of the term is indeed the art of the possible. I cleave to the view that it is up to all of us to be good citizens of the world, but I'm cautious about any sweeping generalisations about what that means. So let me turn the question, Philosopher's Beard. Have you ever bought a sandwich from Marks and Spencer? And if so, how did you justify that purchase in your own mind against the possibility of helping the world's oppressed and hungry?

    1. This seems on point to me. Fix the actual problems instead of issuing a subsidy for emotional feelgoods. And then we should, instead of looking to the problems of others, look to the problems in our own nations. There are enough for all.

    2. I am not making arguments about how you should live your life as an individual. (And in any case I am not some guru whose arguments are to be assessed against the saintliness of my conduct.) I am arguing firstly for a change in attitude, for you to at least desire a world in which human rights attach to humans, not just our citizens. And secondly and eventually for a change in our political institutions to bring such a world about.

      That's how the struggle for abolition went, from a stretch of the moral imagination among a minority to the moral conviction of the majority to a series of gigantic political changes and a somewhat better world.

    3. As a philospher, you should know the danger of making universal statements about particularized events. It is not denying someone human rights to say they are not welcome in every other nation on earth.

    4. @ TRW: Thanks for the courtesy of your reply. However, I didn't mean to suggest that your arguments should be assessed against your conduct (though in my experience that's a pretty good indicator of the integrity of any given position - cf George Osborne's "we're all in this together".

      Rather, I was quizzing your (apparent) criticism of those individuals and institutions which claim to observe the universality of human rights, but fail to address the full implications. I include myself in this and freely admit that I cannot, by own lights, justify my behaviour. I just wondered if this was a question you had addressed in your own life, and if so what conclusions you have reached.

      In the meantime I'm sceptical of the term "human rights" as a catch-all for practices with which we may disagree, and I'm not sure that your aspiration for a "somewhat better world", though entirely laudable, is as readily achievable or even possible as you appear to hope.

    5. @Brett. The whole point of human rights is that they are founded on your human status not your citizenship status. They are supposed to apply even if your government refuses to accept them, as in Eritrea. The problem is that if no other state will accept their responsibility to guarantee your rights you are left in the condition of the Jews of Europe in the 1930s (as analysed by Hannah Arendt in chapter 9 of On Totalitarianism), i.e. rightless in your state and rightless without it.

      1.See this short essay by Carissa Véliz

      2. I'm not a believer in the Peter Singer style of 'consumer ethics', all this trying to solve the world's problems by changing what's in your sandwich. It seems so focused on the purity of one's conduct, rather than with outcomes, as to skirt with ethical narcisism. Thomas Pogge's institutional/political approach is rather more plausible.

      3. As for the implausibility of human rights, while I do appreciate that the concept is irritatingly fuzzy I think it is determinate enough to achieve and measure progress. Firstly, anything that is achieved in some countries clearly is possible, even if, like achieving economic prosperity, it isn't quick or easy. Secondly, a world without horrors like torture doesn't seem all that idealistic a goal to aim for. It is just better, in the sense of being less dystopian.

    6. "The whole point of human rights is that they are founded on your human status not your citizenship status."

      Founded... they're a theory. That's nice and all, but back in the real world, the question is of results not arbitrary abstractions applied by collective guilt or altruistic feeling.

    7. @Brett. You've made a number of comments and I can't really make sense of them. You say human rights are imaginary theoretical constructs. But you also want to somehow - magically? - transform the regimes under which people live so that they can have them. And you call that living in the real world 'of results'.

    8. "You say human rights are imaginary theoretical constructs."

      That is correct. They do not appear in nature. They may be written into law and enforced, but that law may not actually work.

      "But you also want to somehow - magically? - transform the regimes under which people live so that they can have them."

      Where did I say that? And where is this "magical" coming from? If people in the third world want human rights, they can create them in their own nations the same way we did: with revolutions.

      If they do not, I guess they do not want them enough to attain them, and it is not intelligent or proper for us to subsidize that.

      If we want to think logically, "rights" have many problems starting with their absolute nature. Maybe our entire modern quest is based on a non-functional principle.

    9. @Brett. I've published 7 comments from you and I think that's quite enough. I don't know what you mean to say but you've certainly had enough of a chance to say it. Your last one, that refugees from places like Syria and Eritrea can't actually want human rights otherwise they would have a revolution is just unfathomable. I'm not getting anything out of this and I can't see that you are either. If you want to exercise your right to complain about my essay, you will have to find somewhere else on the www to do so.

      Edit: You are still trying to post comments. Please try to understand that this is not your blog, but mine. I can control the discussion here, for example to prevent one person from hijacking every thread.

      Your future comments will go directly to spam without being read.

    10. Certainly you can control the discussion here, and suppress opinions which you find "unfathomable". I understand that social scientists call this confirmation bias - aka "I'm not getting anything out of this" (well you wouldn't, would you?).

      As for myself, I tend to the view that the active suppression of inconvenient opinions is not a good way to move forward, and has a pretty shady record out there in the real world.

    11. @Anon

      Less whinging blather, more content please. I had enough of that from the perpetual victimhood machine who came before you and tried to take over this entire comments section.

      I maintain this comment section for selfish Millian reasons, so as to improve my own arguments through challenge and debate. I respect your freedom of speech, but don't confuse it with a right to be consulted about what I write. The upshot, as I - eventually - informed your incoherent friend, is that people who don't make sense can and will be asked to leave.

  8. Recruit the immigrants into an army that will return and free their people.

    1. I believe that was tried, for Cuba. Sometimes there aren't easy answers.

  9. It would suck being from a place that these refugees are from. They did nothing personally to deserve it.
    All I know for a fact though is how much personal sacrifice my forefathers went through to build the country I live in.
    No moral argument will convince me that it is a good idea to give what my family paid for in blood for free. It is a bit like money. If you don't earn it you will never respect it.

    1. @Anon. A lot of people have said something like that (e.g. on Reddit). I expected an autochthony argument about blood and soil, in the European style. But this seems to be a 'we built it' argument in the American style. It is thus somewhat puzzling, since it uses the moral achievement of earlier immigration, often from broken countries like Ireland or from persecuted religious minorities, to argue against allowing such immigration now.

      Anyway, my general point concerns solidarity. If you think that poorer members of your society should still get to send their children to school as a matter of justice, that fellow citizens of a different skin colour should be treated with equal respect by the police, etc, then you believe in national solidarity. Then I would challenge you to justify not extending that solidarity to non-citizens.

      Since you only mention your family in your comment though I'm not sure whether you believe in national solidarity in the first place.

  10. I'm guessing you'll be opening your house to a few dozen people?

    1. Of course. It's just like when I supported poor children's right to education and I opened my own school in my living room. I also wear a police uniform whenever I go outside, because I believe that black people deserve to be treated with respect by the police and that was the only way I could think of to achieve that.

  11. Might help to look at Australia's example.... http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2015/04/the_great_australian_experiment.html

    1. I can't see the relevance of that post, mate. Do you have another where the point is clearer and that doesn't assume so much knowledge of Australian political history?

  12. Third world is not something that is tied to territories. It's in the heads.
    Once third worlders come, they will bring their chaos with them.
    It's not the systems/regimes of third world countries that are to blame for the absence of rights there, but the human content of those systems. The people.

    1. What a terrifying ugly world you live in.

    2. I live in third world actually ("Russian world", to be more specific), so i know what i'm talking about.
      Trust me, you DO NOT want this in your home land.

  13. A big problem for me with mass immigration from the developing world is the inevitable culture clash that comes at the end of it. Of course these people want a better life in the liberal democratic capitalist Western world (despite its own inherent imperfections), but recent history tells us that too often they only want that freedom and those rights as far as they work for them and not necessarily the responsibilities that come on the flip side. To me there is often a whole world of bad stuff that doesn't get checked at the door on the way in from FGM, to attitudes to homosexuality, religious intolerance and racism (the narrative of racism in the UK focuses mainly on white racism towards BME, partly because that's where rent seeking opportunities lie for certain professionals, it largely glosses over far more virulent racism between minorities where there is less business to be had). Think of reports of Muslim boat people throwing Christian boat people over the side. Think of Islamists who crave the freedom to impose medievalist beliefs on others. Not having a specific go at Muslims btw, it is the effect of any and all of these types of issues, especially as we will handicap ourselves with moral relativism on the basis that we need to be respectful of diversity even when it is deeply disturbing.

    The persecuted may be the clichéd one legged, lesbian refugee from Somalia, but that doesn't mean they don't harbour some deeply disturbing beliefs and practices that are ingrained within their culture.

    We should help, but we should not forget the differences, the risks and the city costs.

    1. Yes, indeed, being a victim doesn't make you a good person, or even merely a good neighbour.

      I don't know how to measure those costs though - where's a sociologist when you need one: I'm sure there's lots of work on this. But I suspect that they have a lot to do with how integration arrangements are handled, including care and counselling for trauma, and how welcoming a host community is. Different countries have very different records at turning 3rd world immigrants into proud citizens after all. E.g. Canada vs France. We have best practice to learn from, if we care to. (e.g. I've read that the experience of Somali refugees has generally been much better in America than in Britain.)

      In the British context, setting important anomalies like Bradford aside, it seems like it is the whitest poorest parts of the country, seaside towns especially, where UKIP's rhetoric about the cultural/moral conflicts of immigration most resonates. Not the cities like London where most first generation immigrants actually live.

  14. Just rediscovered your weblog; had it in my favorites for many years.
    All that you say in this one is true, but there is the reality of survival. We are already suffering from a surfeit of ignorance, all the uneducated flooding in to swamp our own. One is reminded of the lifeboat being sunk by would-be survivors. Yes, we are a nation of immigrants, and in time...........but..........well, surely you see the problem. No matter, it is likely they will sink the lifeboat anyway, and our ignorant will be right there helping them. I think in history they refer to it as progress.
    (My wordpress moniker wouldn't take: phaedo2000.com)

    1. Most refugees currently end up in poor countries next door. The idea that the richest countries with the most sophisticated institutions are too fragile to accept them doesn't convince me. It's not that we can't take them in. We just don't want to.

  15. So, we want to feel like nice folk but immigrants frighten us or are made to seem frightening. But we British put up a smokescreen, we could accommodate far more - but we just won't build houses (or schools or factories), not even for our current population. We won't build houses because to do so would wreck our political setup and frighten the bankers. So the political class puts up a smokescreen largely for their self-preservation and our disadvantage. Playing the immigrant card suits them fine.

    But would open immigration stabilise at some bearable level or would we be overwhelmed. Would we end up with all the old, sick and criminal as well as the young and vigorous. A sort of hospital-cum-reformatory for the world. One might argue that the rich countries have done their best to damage the poor countries (some) and should rightly bear the cost. Fine so long as all take their share. Tricky to work out who takes the blame and what happens if they refuse.

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  17. The problem of mass migration is a very serious issue in the modern changing world. The ill-handling of the migrant problem already giving rise to anti social elements and Islamic fundamentalist . The people in developing countries mostly from Muslim countries faces a very grim situation of how to live in a country where girls are raped before their own parents or a modern man is murdered for shaving his beard. But I don't think migration is the solution of our problems. The migration is a natural will of the people to go and settle somewhere else upon the planet.The group of people running for a new place of living even at the cost of their lives where basic human rights is given to them is completely a different situation. We need a common will of the world leaders to use advance planning and resources of the developed world to pacify the terror stricken soul of the so called migrants in order to give them a reason to live and return to their natural place of living.We westerners are rich and resourceful and that is why we need to work at the major problems of the larger community of the people. While it is good to help others, natural will of our own members must be the basis for it.While migrants are divided and lack the resources to struggle, let we not be divided in our approach or resolve for helping them otherwise one day we can be migrant too.

  18. well said.I feel that moral obligation needs to understand in its right perspective otherwise we can't live in a complicated world where violence is inflicted on a mass scale and propaganda to influence people is done upon a mammoth scale.The migration is very similar to a moral puzzle for the western people.The growing power of terrorists and sources to navigate the world have been on the rise.The proper planning to save the world from falling into hands of rogue states is also one issue we need to look into.

  19. Article involves an interesting and actual topic. Just do all the conventions on human rights, in reality, it is very similar to the hypocritical scheme. Yes you are right, but we do not meddle. Yes, we are highly moral, but you are not allowed.

  20. The opinion that India's untouchable are not given equal rights is not true. India has one of the most democratic society for untouchable giving numerous opportunities including the right of reservation in the government services. The public office treating all without discrimination based on caste or color is a well established fact. The assumption that they can be included in groups aspiring for migration is absolutely wrong. The moral embarrassment exist when we see a miserable person in the need of help and not for those who have well made resources to pass life comfortably. The growing tides of migrants have parallel with non-violent freedom fighters protesting peacefully to a world where nothing is given until force is used to control.