Free migration

Free migration or open immigration is the position that people should be able to migrate to whatever country they choose.

Argument for Free Migration

Although the two are not the same issue, free migration is similar in spirit to the concept of free trade, and both are advocated by free market economists on the grounds that economics is not a zero-sum game and that free markets are, in their opinion, the best way to create a fairer and balanced economic system, thereby increasing the overall economic benefits to all concerned parties.[1][2]

Notwithstanding noteworthy differences among these political ideologies, many libertarians,[3] liberals, socialists, and anarchists advocate open immigration,[4] as do Objectivists.[5]

Human Rights Perspective

From a human-rights perspective, free migration may be seen to complement Article 13 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.[6]

Arguments against Free Migration

Arguments against free immigration are usually economical, cultural or security-related. Some arguments are nationalistic or what some critics claim to be "xenophobia",[7] or ones similar to arguments against free trade; for example, protectionism. Specifically, an influx of cheap labor could easily deflate wages for workers who are already established in a particular labor market, and have a negative impact on the standard of living for the more established workers.

Other critics of free immigration are concerned that it would be unfair to current homeowners if an influx of new residents greatly brought down the property values and attractiveness of living in that location, or alternatively, increased the demand to live in the city so much that the home owner would not be able to keep up with increased taxes from higher property values. However, free market economists believe that competition is the essence of a healthy economic system, and that any short-term negative impact on individual economic factors that is caused by free immigration is more than justified by the prospects of long-term growth for the economy as a whole.[8]

Other arguments include the general impact on the environment, infrastructure, population density, governmental costs, immigrant criminality, incompatible culture of immigrants and overall quality of life decrease.

Free migration of war/political refugees

War-related chaos can lead to the breakdown of borders and allow for de facto free immigration. The natural attempts to flee strife, or escape a conquering enemy, can quickly lead to millions of refugees. Even where border controls are in place they can be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people. Once settled into refugee camps, these reluctant immigrants may take decades to be either repatriated back or naturalized into their new country. This has been the situation with the Palestinians in Jordan.

During the Cold War, a migration paradox arose in which some of the communist states forbade emigration, while the "Free World" would freely accept the defectors. This policy persists for Cubans[9] and the Hmong, who are both allowed particular forms of free immigration to the United States based on their automatic refugee status.

Areas with free internal migration

Areas with free external migration

All people regardless of citizenship are allowed to live and work in Svalbard without a visa or residence permit, as long as they demonstrate they are able to support themselves.[11][12]

See also


  1. Clemens, Michael (2011). "Economics and Immigration: Trillion Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?". Journal of Economic Perspectives. Vol. 25 (No. 3): 83–106.
  2. The movement of people and goods is linked, Binod Khadria, BBC News, April 13, 2004.
  3. Brennan, Jason (2012). Libertarianism - What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford University Press. pp. 42, 50, 119, 125. Libertarians also support free immigration. [...] They believe everyone has the right to take employment in any other country, regardless of citizenship. They hold that, except in special circumstances, governments may not forbid citizens from leaving a country, nor may governments forbid foreigners from entering. (Page 42)
  4. Immigration Control: What about the workers?, Paul Marks, Free Life No. 19, Page 12, November, 1993.
  5. Biddle, Craig (Spring 2008). "Immigration and Individual Rights". The Objective Standard. Retrieved May 14, 2015.
  6. Antoine Pécoud and Paul de Guchteneire (Eds): MIGRATION WITHOUT BORDERS, Essays on the Free Movement of People (Berghahn Books, 2007)
  7. Borders are the line between 'us' and 'them', Mark Krikorian, BBC News, April 13, 2004.
  8. In Defense of Free Migration, Richard M. Ebeling, The Future of Freedom Foundation, June 1991

Further reading

External links

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