Voluntariness and Migration: A Restatement

Ethics and International Affairs 37 (4):406-426 (2023)
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A key question in the theory of migration and in public debates on immigration policies is when migration can be said to be voluntary and when, conversely, it should be seen as nonvoluntary. In a previous article, we tried to answer this crucial question by providing a list of conditions we view as sufficient for migration to be considered nonvoluntary. According to our account, one condition that makes migration nonvoluntary is when people migrate because they lack acceptable alternatives to doing so. In this article, we take the opportunity to further explore and clarify this crucial condition. More specifically, we focus on two main sets of questions. First, we ask whether migration is always voluntary when it serves goals that are voluntarily chosen, and whether those who decide to migrate voluntarily but only have the option of choosing among a limited set of dangerous, harmful, or illegal means for doing so, can be said to be forced to choose those means. Second, we ask whether what counts as “nonacceptable” alternatives should also include cases in which people could have their needs and fundamental rights met, but at the cost of betraying their moral principles or conceptions of the good.



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Valeria Ottonelli
Università degli Studi di Genova

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