Freedom of Movement: Why we need open borders

Freedom of Movement: Why we need open borders

Even in the middle of a global pandemic, few days go by when migration is not in the news. Migrants have become the perpetual scapegoat, to distract from the damaging anti-social policies of the elite and to boost the votes of demagogues – in the UK and around the world.

Under constant assault, even those who normally support human rights can be forced onto the back foot. Rather than big visions – of a world in which all enjoy equal rights to move freely around the globe with equal protection – we are forced into defensive campaigns. Migrants battle to meet their most basic needs in the face of threats of destitution, arrest and deportation.

In this, we face an uphill struggle, as even the limited system set up to protect the rights of refugees is being unwound at an alarming rate, by authoritarians and populists who pretend that the victims of our global economic system are actually the cause of our problems.

So we need to do something more: to change this narrative we must get back on the front foot. We must speak with hope and energy about the sort of world we want to see. After all, really big changes have always come about when those campaigning and organising have been ‘unrealistic’ in what they’re calling for; when we have demanded the impossible. How else would the slave trade have been defeated? How else would women and working men have won the vote? How else would the NHS, social housing or comprehensive schooling have come into being?

That’s why Global Justice Now is proudly calling for the right to free movement of all people in the world. We know this will not come about overnight – and indeed, Covid-19 has brought about necessary temporary restrictions on freedom of movement even within countries. But freedom of movement is a long term struggle. It will require many years and decades of persistent work. Huge movements will need to be built, with those most deprived of the right to move at the forefront.

This pamphlet is our small contribution to making the vision of free movement a reality. We look at the major reasons why borders are unjust, at some previous and existing examples of free movement around the world, and at some steps governments could take to bring this vision a step closer. And we show how this vision is not nearly as impossible as we might believe.

On its own, this pamphlet will hardly change the world. But we hope it might begin to change minds, to inspire, to mobilise. And we present it in the certain knowledge that, like all systems of apartheid, this one must eventually fall.

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