Irregular Migration

Irregular Migration

The Dilemmas of Transnational Mobility

Bill Jordan and Franck Düvell

Irregular Migration is an extremely timely and topical book, analysing the fundamental tensions at the core of present attempts to manage the movement of population in today’s world. Recent events around the globe have prompted a reappraisal of the emerging consensus on migration control.

Chapter 10: In Search of Global Justice

Bill Jordan and Franck Düvell

Subjects: development studies, migration, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, migration, urban and regional studies, migration


Irregular migration occurs because states make rules about who can legally cross their borders. Under conditions of globalisation, these rules promote transnational economic activity, but limit who can work and stay. In this final chapter, we turn to the justification of these restrictions, and ask which migration controls are consistent with principles of justice. Political philosophy has not been much concerned with issues of migration; theories of distributive justice have been mainly about relationships among members of political societies, or sometimes between societies. Exceptions to this rule are Barry and Goodin (1992) and Cole (2000). Our research study of irregular migrants in the UK raised a number of questions about the justice of migration rules. Polish interviewees argued that the only fair principle was open borders, or at least an extension of the EU rules of free movement to include themselves. Migrants from Turkey said that the controls on their migration were part of a transnational system of economic and political oppression that could be countered only by transnational trade unions and political movements. Both views implied that issues of justice were at stake, and that irregular migration challenged unjust rules. In the first chapter of this book, we identified a paradox of the kind of economic analysis we were undertaking. From the perspective of welfare economics, questions about distributions concerned the members of a polity. Thus, for instance, using either the Pareto or Kaldor–Hicks criteria of distributive optimality, decisions about whether to allow inward migration to...

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