Migration, Surveillance and Ethics

The Ethics of Migration Research Group

Is there a right to exclude or a duty to admit immigrants? Under what conditions, if any, can nation states be justified in closing their borders? These questions are not only pressing due to the scale of the ongoing migration crisis. They have also been reactualized by an increased usage of surveillance-capable systems in migration governance. Sophisticated surveillance technologies are used to: control borders, differentiate between authorized and non-authorized migrants and continuously monitor migration flow. My research group “The Ethics of Migration” deals with principal questions related to mobility rights, restrictions on immigration and emigration and conditions of (foremost irregular) migrants under surveillance-based migration control. Our main objectives are to: (1) investigate under what conditions, if at all, restrictions on cross-national border mobility can be ethically justified and (2) evaluate the ethical acceptability of surveillance-based migration control. By analyzing these aspects, a well-founded basis for ethically defensible migration control can be identified. Examples of questions explored are:

• To what extent, if at all, are nation states in their right to restrict immigration?
• What rights and duties hold between migrants and nation states?
• And, in particular, what rights do irregular migrants have?
• How should the fundamental human right to seek asylum be understood and protected?

In my own research, I focus the role of surveillance technology in migration governance. Irrespective of whether one believes that nation states should be in their right to restrict immigration or not, one may still wish to minimize harmful consequences of surveillance-based migration control, e.g. to reduce the privacy invasive impact. I have for instance discussed the ethical acceptability of the harmonized biometric-based EU-passport currently under development.

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