The ethics of migration policy dilemmas


‘Dilemmas’ analyses fundamental ethical dilemmas in policy-making on migration and refugee protection. “Political theory of migration” is a growing research field, but so far it has been focused on a small number of issues. In particular, political theorists have treated extensively issues related to immigration claims (e.g. is there a human right to free movement?), membership and citizenship (e.g. critique vs defense of birthright citizenship; the importance of territorial presence as a criterion for membership rights), and to asylum (e.g. what are democratic states’ moral obligations towards refugees?). ‘Dilemmas’ aims to expand the focus of existing normative research by adopting a ‘bottom-up’ approach that identifies specific policy challenges and dilemmas that migration policy-makers and civil society actors in the migration field face but that have not yet been considered by mainstream normative political theorizing. Examples of such policy dilemmas include: the tension between humanitarian protection and border control in maritime rescue operations; the normative dilemmas that arise when balancing different policy goals in the regulation of labour migration; the contested legitimacy of utilitarian criteria (taking into account social and economic concerns) in asylum policy decisions; and the normative dilemmas faced by sending and transit states. ‘Dilemmas’ will also widen the scope of actors from the traditional focus on executive and legislative branches of government to other agents engaging with migration policy, including International Organisations, NGOs and the media.

In addition to providing new research and thinking, Dilemmas aims to facilitate debates with a wide range of policy-makers and civil society actors, to discuss the core ethical dilemmas that arise in migration and refugee policy-making. We plan to organise a series of online debates and seminars/webinars that will bring together researchers, policy-makers, and civil society actors to debate these issues. If you are interested in contributing, please get in touch with one of the project coordinators.

Researchers associated with this project:
‘Dilemmas’ is a joint initiative of the MPC and of the research project “Migration as Morality Politics” [PI Julia Mourão Permoser, Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) Grant V 743-G].
The project is coordinated by Martin Ruhs (MPC/EUI), Julia Permoser (University of Innsbruck), Rainer Bauböck (EUI and Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Lukas Schmid (EUI).

Dilemmas in the Media
Restricting Emigration
Refugee Protection
Search and Rescue
Temporary Labour Migration
Anti-Immigrant Backlash
Failed Asylum Seekers
Private Healthcare Provision
Unauthorized Residence