Dissertation, KU Leuven (2018)

Crispino Akakpo
Radboud University Nijmegen
In this thesis, I examine what makes a migration policy “just” by focussing on the following question: Is a policy of open borders the only morally defensible option or are there legitimate reasons for excluding would-be immigrants from entering? I reason that absent a global constitutional framework to determine and secure the relevant rights and duties at stake, potential immigrants lack a legitimate general right to immigrate since states bear no corresponding general duty to let them in. In the same breath, because would-be immigrants do not owe states a general duty not to immigrate, states lack a legitimate general right to exclude. Does it mean then that states cannot exclude potential immigrants, at all? I posit that a state may prevent a would-be immigrant from entering if there is evidence to show that such an individual poses a threat to the life and property of residents of the receiving state. My justification is that since residents delegate their individual right to self-help to the state, a state owes its residents a jurisdictional duty to secure the necessary condition for pursuing compatible conceptions of the good life. And given that a state exercises the delegated right to self-help internally by restricting the movement of persons that offend or threaten law and order, it would be unjust if the state fails to arrest threats from without. Finally, I propose what I call “temporary citizenship” as a fair system of migration predicated upon a jurisdiction-based citizenship acquisition. According to this proposal, all residents should be citizens irrespective of the duration of their stay. In view of the normative ideal requiring reflexivity between subjection to the law and authorship of the law, I conclude that the exercise of governmental power over non-citizen residents amounts to tyranny and therefore an illegitimate exercise of authority over them; therefore, immigrants should be admitted as citizens. The implication is that while protecting the life and property of all residents, the government can also exact from all residents the corresponding duties without distinction.
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