Trading rights for migration and is there any light for the displaced Rohingya?

Is there a trade-off between migration and the rights of migrants? Chris Bertram, Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Bristol, and Martin Ruhs, Associate Professor of Political Economy at the University of Oxford, start this episode by discussing this dilemma. Next, Sarnata Reynolds, a human rights lawyer and director of Strategy for Humanity, tells us about the situation of the displaced Rohingya, who face ethnic cleansing in Myanmar (Burma).

We don’t think it would be justifiable to reduce the rights of native-born citizens for an aggregate gain in welfare and the same should go for other people who also have a moral claim to membership.

Chris Bertram

In a recent book, the economist Branko Milanovic has argued that migrants’ rights should be restricted in order to enable more migration, which in turn would reduce global inequality. Chris Bertram, who has written on the ethics of exclusion, has taken issue with this. Bertram argues hat restricting for example political rights of migrants would create an apartheid-like society.

Rather than restricting migrants’ access to the welfare state, why don’t we just change the welfare state and make it more contributory? The answer depends entirely on what perspective you are taking. Do you take a global perspective or do you take a national perspective?

Martin Ruhs

Martin Ruhs has argued in this book The Price of Rights, as well as in a recent research paper on EU migration, that there is a trade-off between openness to migration and the welfare state. He argues that welfare states that are more contributory, rather than based only on needs, find it easier to absorb more migrants.

Malaysia, as bad as it is, and it is really bad, is still considered to be better than Indonesia and Thailand. If you can get to Malaysia, you’re on your way to a better life.

Sarnata Reynolds

Last year, as thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar (Burma), fled persecution, neighbouring countries initially refused to let them in and they ended up stuck at sea. A year on, Sarnata Reynolds tell us that the situation has not improved, with the Rohingya having access to almost no rights in the countries that did let them in and there is very limited international assistance. Read more about their situation here and here.

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