Home Articles posted by Juan M. Amaya-Castro

A Brief Response to Pizzutelli and Sitaropoulos

Published on May 22, 2015        Author: 

The argument that I made focused on the selection for admission of foreigners on the basis of economic worth, and I denominate this selection ‘discriminatory’. In his response Nikolaos Sitaropoulos argues that he is “not convinced that, in itself, such differentiation constitutes discriminatory, and hence unlawful, treatment”. However, the fact that it may not be, at least according to the European Court of Human Rights ‘unlawful’, or rather, in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, although perhaps in breach of other international rules, does not mean that it is not ‘discriminatory’. The international human rights analysis of Sitaropoulos points in the direction of lawfulness for this discrimination in the context of admission. Allowing for this analysis to be correct, and at least suspending an important new argument, I would reframe the title of my argument to argue that it is international human rights law, and not just international migration law, that provides a license to discriminate on the basis of economic worth, exactly because it considers it lawful to do so. Referring to this practice as ‘differentiating’, rather than ‘discriminatory’, ignores the fact that we are talking about a very binary selection process: you are either admitted, or you are not. To differentiate is to identify difference. To discriminate is to grant somebody a right, or to deny it, on the basis of that difference.

Francesca Pizzutelli provides a welcome overview of international legal limitations that may protect people from discrimination according to economic worth. How should we, however, qualify these limitations? Do they indicate a new legal development? Or are they instead scattered exceptions that confirm a rule? Her analysis strongly reminds me of two very telling and almost identical anecdotes in which a refugee lawyer in the UK and an immigration officer in Germany were advising some prospective asylum seekers to seek entry through employment or ‘knowledge migration’, because that offered much better prospects. In addition, how should we assess these rather humble limitations against a backdrop in which citizenship of EU countries is increasingly for sale? And what to make of the fact that as this piece goes online, the UN Security Council is preparing military action against smugglers and accepting that this may result in the killing of ‘migrants’, as ‘collateral damage’? This author at least finds it hard to see in the limitations highlighted by Pizzutelli a significant obstacle to the right to discriminate according to economic worth.


International Migration Law: License to Discriminate?

Published on May 19, 2015        Author: 

The story of international law and migration commonly begins with the observation that states have the sovereign right to deny access to non-nationals. This statement is then qualified with the observation that there are some exceptions to this rule. Refugees and other people who may run serious risks if returned to their country, or are otherwise expelled, and in some cases people requesting admission on the basis of family reunification, should be allowed access. The sovereign right to exclude is presumed to be inherent and ‘age-old’. That impression is mistaken. Immigration control is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until late in the 19th century, political demographic conditions made population growth desirable, so immigration was welcomed. It was only with the desire to limit Chinese immigration into the US and Australia, a desire motivated by racist considerations, that immigration control and the passport regime became the new ‘normal’, and that the reference to the ‘age old’ sovereign right to control immigration began to gain force.

Recently, a number of countries have made headlines because of innovative immigration policies designed to attract investors and entrepreneurs. Spain, Chile, Canada, and others are now conceiving of immigration policies within the broader context of increasing their economic competitiveness. Many other countries already offer benefits to so-called ‘knowledge migrants’. What makes this new wave stand out is the overt effort to compete with other countries for talent and investment. One could almost forget that fear of immigrants has been the main driving force behind most immigration policies around the world. Although government officials in many countries experiencing immigration may be under pressure to implement policies that bring immigrant numbers down, immigration policies have typically also been made with an eye to economic sectors eager for access to certain workers, whether skilled or unskilled. In other words, immigration policies cater not only to those fearful of (large scale) immigration, but also to those in need of specific forms of labor.

As such, migration law is not just about putting up barriers to migrants but also about selecting among potential or prospective migrants. In the Dutch political context the term of art is kansarm (poor in prospect) or more broadly in public opinion debates kansloos (prospectless). Kansarm even made it into the 2010 coalition agreement, which also exempted so-called knowledge-migrants (kennismigranten) from various measures deemed to make immigration more difficult; the factor used to determine whether someone is a knowledge-migrant is a minimum level of income. Blunt as Dutch political discourse may be, public discourse on immigration in most immigration countries often takes such distinctions for granted. Read the rest of this entry…