The Dilemmas project is coordinated by Rainer Bauboeck, Julia Permoser (Vienna), Samuel Schmid (EUI SPS) and Martin Ruhs. It discusses and debates the ethics of key migration policy dilemmas. For each dilemma, there is an academic kick-off paper and then also 3-5 short responses/commentaries by academic and policy experts from around the world.
We have just finalised the first of our dilemmas – ‘Should Countries Restrict Labour Emigration to Other Countries Where Migrants Risk Being Exploited or Abused?’. It was started with a kick-off paper by Patti Tamara Lenard, it was followed by four other responses and finalised by Patti Tamara Lenard herself.
In her kick-off paper, Lenard talks: Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers in Gulf States is common and well-documented, and women domestic workers are at special risk. Sending states—often relatively poorer South Asian states—are limited in the ways that they can protect the rights of their citizens when they are labouring abroad. One strategy that sending states have deployed is the adoption of ‘emigration bans’ or ‘emigration conditions’. Emigration bans restrict citizens from taking up temporary labour market contracts, usually in specific states, but sometimes in general. ‘Emigration conditions’ require would-be migrants to meet specific requirements in order to be permitted, by the sending state, to take up a labour market contract abroad. In this article, I examine whether it is morally permissible for source countries to prohibit migration to countries where they risk being exploited or abused. I examine the reasons states give to justify emigration bans and conditions: the ‘structured vulnerability’ reason; the ‘gendered structured vulnerability’ reason; and the ‘gendered paternalism’ reason. Overall, I agree that the reasons motivating the bans and conditions are good ones—though I offer some criticism of the reasons I describe as ‘gendered paternalism’. But, since there is only limited evidence of the effectiveness of bans and conditions in achieving substantive benefit for labour migrants, and on the contrary evidence of the real harm they can sometimes generate, I argue that, absent positive evidence of success in achieving their objectives, they ought to be rejected in practice even if they are permissible in principle.
The 1st Dilemma