As Pope Francis stated: “Migrants and refugees are

As Pope
Francis stated: “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of
humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave
their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and
having, but above all for being more”1. This essay will consider
the reasons for and against migration as a basic human right, first touching
upon how Britain has benefited from migration despite the misconceptions; then
onto the main reason arguing against; followed by an argumentative response to
the previous point and a conclusion, summarising the ideas made throughout and,
ultimately, concluding that migration is most definitely a basic human right.

* *

especially, is a country built upon migration and still today, thrives upon it.
Frankly, we are all migrants – historically and personally. Scientific evidence
has shown that we have all descended from a single African, ancestral family
from 170,000 years ago.2 Historically, every single
one of us are migrants and the majority of us, if not all, then migrated over
the generations so that we can be where we are now today; and personally, we
might have migrated ourselves from somewhere other than our home country – or
at least, know someone who has done so. The idea that some see it reasonable
and justifiable to believe that there are rules as to who should and shouldn’t
live somewhere is beyond disbelief. Many do not have the opinion, the right
and, a lot of the time, the legitimate, factual knowledge to judge or
discriminate against any migrants.

The stigma
attached to migration is still very negative despite being well into the 21st
century; proof of this can be seen in a 2014 poll
YouGov conducted on behalf of Channel 5. 57% of respondents thought migration
was bad for the British economy, whilst only 19% thought it was good.3
According to research conducted by Ipsos MORI, British people think far more EU
citizens live in the UK than really do (average estimate was 15% of UK population
equivalent to 10.5 million when the correct figure is 3.5 million (2014))4. Myths such as increased
crime rate due to migration have been discredited numerous times; research from
the London School of Economics and Political Science have shown that crime
rates fall rather than rise in concentrated migrant areas of Britain,
suggesting that the presence of migrants and their communities has little to no
effect on crime rates. One LSE researcher, Brian Bell, stated: “”The view
that foreigners commit more crime is not true. The truth is that immigrants are
just like natives – if they have a good job and income they don’t commit crime”5.

reality, migrants are essential and beneficiary towards the British economy.
For example, the UCL Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM)
concluded that European migrants who arrived in the UK since 2000, have
contributed more than £20bn to the UK economy between 2001 and 2011.
Additionally, their presence has helped Britain with vital human capital that could
have cost the country £6.8bn in education.6 Migrants have also had a
large effect on our NHS. 12% of NHS staff would not consider themselves British
natives7 and migrants themselves
are using NHS services less than natives due to being younger on average8; through taxes, migrants
are giving more to the NHS than they are taking.

is a human right that affects all of us and has determined the current success
of Britain as a country. Ignoring migrants’ right to be here (or anywhere,
really) is hypocritical and ignorant considering that the scale of migration in
coming decades is likely to dwarf what has come before. Climate change,
disease, famine, poverty and wars will push hundreds of millions to leave their
country for another. If we do not acknowledge their right to move now, we will
only be jeopardising the lives, economy and future, possible peace of our

* *

As much as
in an ideal world, the idea of migration being a human right sounds wonderful,
the reality of it is simply unattainable. On purely practical terms, freedom of
movement is restricted by borders. As it currently stands, there is no
functioning global governing body for the entire planet and all the 195
countries that cover it. Yes, we may have economic unions like the EU or
intergovernmental organisations such as the United Nations but, some only
include a finite group of member countries whilst others’ roles are limited
only to an advisory one. With so many countries, ideologies and cultures,
finding some common ground amongst them to enforce any kind of world government, or laws, is near impossible. Perhaps
the closest thing we do have to an
international body, is the United Nations.

Founded in
October of 1945 after the failed League of Nations9, their aim is to promote international
cooperation and to create and maintain international order, something
especially sought for after the destruction caused by World War II. In 1948,
the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” was created and addresses 30 human
rights we are all entitled to, concerning education, identity, labour and
property to name a few. Under Article 13, “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.” 10
This can be very easily deciphered to say that migration is a human right, despite no explicit reference.

this right is not absolute, meaning it is “a legally enforceable right to take
some action or to refrain from acting at the sole discretion of the person
having the right”11. Under Article 4 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights12, countries “may take
measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant”
considering they do not discriminate on the grounds of race, gender, language,
religion or place of origin. It may also be restricted under domestic law
(article 12(3) of the ICCPR) or due to armed conflict. A further point to
consider is that neither in the UDHR nor in the ICCPR, the term “migration” (or
similar terms like “immigration” or “emigration”) is used. Instead the
carefully chosen word of “movement” is, suggesting that the principle of moving
from one country to another is accepted globally but the true reality of
migration is disputed; different countries have different ideas of what they
consider “migration” and who they consider worthy of entering their borders

as long as there is no global government, no legally binding human rights laws,
no absolute migration rights to protect us and no universal agreement of
“migration”, migration cannot be considered a basic human right, if there are
so many circumstances and factors that are preventing us from truly claiming

* *

In response
to the previous argument that immigration is a non-absolute right, migration is
similar to many other moral human rights that are non-absolute that aren’t
disputed over its existence (for example, all of the rights in the UDHR). In
this sense, it is exactly identical to other human rights.

the arguments against migration as a human right are all unsurprisingly based
upon what is considered “correct” by written legislation, taking a complete
disregard for personal feelings as if we are animals incapable of thinking for
ourselves. If it is not written in the books, then it is not right. However,
that argument, in this case, is incredibly weak and, truthfully, frustrating
for anyone who does have morals. 
Something often forgotten about is our morals as human beings.
Considering we are the only organisms on earth to experience such complex
emotions and a higher consciousness associated with human ingenuity, having
some moral compass and empathy for others should be what sets us apart from
other species.

migration should be considered as, is a moral right rather than a legal right
(although it is possible they can coincide together). A moral right is
something we are morally entitled to because we are human. Legal rights are
those recognised in the law13.  For example, protection from torture may be
seen has a moral right globally because we morally know that inflicting pain on
others is callous and cruel; but, sadly, it may not be recognised as a legal
right in every country. Migration is a moral right because it concerns people’s
personal lives. It is not as simple as grouping every single migrant together
and saying their situations are identical. Every migrant is a human being with
infrangible individual rights and they want to come here to pursue a better
life. Instead, these goals and pursuits are buried under layers of paperwork
and endless waiting lists, instigated by unjustifiable and unnecessary racism
and xenophobia.

The way
the system currently works is immoral and sadistic. We make exceptions for
skill, money and intelligence—as if just by existing inside our borders is a
privilege to be thankful for. Migration is clearly a moral right we should all
be entitled to because, who does have
the right to pick and choose who comes to live here? Surely that in itself
sounds irrational.

* *

this essay, we have seen that migration is a basic human right and have
supported these points with real statistics and proof, but without forgetting
to consider the arguments against. Despite the growing concern of migration in
Western societies (especially), these misconceptions have been proven false or
exaggerated throughout the years. The arguments against migration are not ones
based on facts, or logic, or legitimacy, but rather on the preconceived judgements
held against anyone other than “your own”, which shows an undeniable sense of
prejudice and xenophobia some hold. The answer to this above question should
not really be one questioned. The answer is obvious. The freedom to migrate
across countries as we wish or need, is just as important as any other rights
of freedom. It is what countries have been built upon, what they thrive on now
and what they need to develop in the future. In centuries from now, when people
are finally free to wander the Earth as they please with no fear of rejection
or restrictions, they will look back at this moment and wonder, just as we did
with slavery, how it could have been possible that those who thought to have
been so humane and modern, could have also done such things to their fellow
human beings. Using borders and laws to cage them away like animals – “merely
for wanting to wander, as our species always has and always will.”14


1 Pope Francis, “MESSAGE OF HIS
Refugees: Towards a Better World,” Vatican
Official, published 5 August 2013 and accessed 22 December 2017,

2 Max Ingman, Ulf Gyllensten, Henrik
Kaessmann and Svante Pääbo, “Mitochondrial genome variation and the origin
of modern humans,” Nature News, published
7 December 2000 and accessed 28 January 2017,

3 “Sunday Times Survey Results”, Sunday Times, published in 2013 and
accessed 22 December 2017,

4 Nicola White, “Population by Country
of Birth and Nationality Report: August 2015”, Office for National Stastics, published 27 August 2015 and accessed
22 December 2017,

5 (Quote found in “The Guardian’s”
article) Mark Townsend, “Crime doesn’t rise in high immigration areas – it
falls, says study,”, The Guardian,
published April 28, 2013 and accessed 28 December 2017,

6 Christian Dustmann and Tommaso
Frattini, “The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK”, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, published 4 November
2014 and accessed 2 January 2018,

7 Carl Baker, “NHS staff from
overseas: statistics, no. 7783”, Research
Briefings, published 16 October 2017 and accessed 2 January 2018,

8 Adam Steventon and Martin
Bardsley, “Use of secondary care in England by international
immigrants”, Journal of Health
Services Research & Policy 16, no. 2, published 1 April 2011 and accessed
1 January 2018,, 90-94.

9 “Overview,” United Nations, accessed 2 January 2018,

10 UN General Assembly,
“Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” 217 (III) A (Paris, 1948), United Nations, accessed 3 January 2018,

11 “Absolute Right Legal
Definition,” Merriam-Webster, published
1996 and accessed 2 January 2018,

12 UN General Assembly, “International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”, Treaty Series vol. 999, United Nations, published 16 December
1966 and accessed 3 January 2018,,

13 Thomas Winfried Pogge, “Severe
Poverty as a Human Rights Violation,” in Freedom from Poverty as a Human Right:
Who Owes what to the Very Poor? (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2007), 13.

14 (Idea from Mohsin Hamid’s article
in “The Guardian”) Mohsin Hamid, “Mohsin Hamid: why migration is a fundamental
human right”, The Guardian, published
21 November 2014 and accessed 13 December 2017,


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