Immigration ethics

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People areusually on the move for various reasons. They can move in theirnative country or to a foreign country. It can be permanent ortemporary. The process by which individuals move into a foreigncountry is called immigration. This process is usually carried outwith the aim of satisfying a specific need. While people move to aforeign country, problems, benefits or both are the end results. Thecause for the immigration can be used to tell its impact on thereceiving country. Immigrants may be seeking to address professionalduties, seek refuge, or to escape from being prosecuted. Theimmigrants usually burden the host nation. This raises the ethicaldilemma of whether to allow or prevent the non-natives from enteringa foreign country. This paper analyses the arguments of Hardon G.(1974) on immigration in contrast to the view of Dummett M. (2001).


Hardin G. (1974)uses metaphors to explain the ethics of migrations. His argumentssupport the migration policies that restrict the movement of peopleinto another. He relates a country to a lifeboat with limitedcapacity and resources. Immigration into such a country results inovercrowding and increased the rate of exploiting resources. When thecapacity of the lifeboat is exceeded, it will automatically capsizeand thus causing the death of all people on board. It is theresponsibility of a state to ensure safety to all its citizens.Therefore, the state should not allow immigrants in to safeguard therights of its citizens. Furthermore, the residents will be forced toshare their limited resources with the immigrants and thus reducingtheir financial status.

From theperspective of Hardin G. (1974), the immigrants usually come fromdeveloping country to a developing one. The population growth rate ofa developing country is higher while the rich has a slow growth. When immigrants from a poor nation are allowed into a rich one, thereis a possibility that one time the former will outnumber thepopulation of the latter. At such a point, the sharing ratio will beworse. The speed at which the rich will be becoming poor is high. Onthe other side, the financial position of the impoverished will beelevated. Helping poor countries through aids is not effective sincethey will always be lazy knowing that there is a foreign aid toaddress their issues. The intrinsic effort to eliminate poverty andreduce population in these countries is limited by aids. Therefore,the aids to such nations should be reduced. Furthermore, Hardin G.(1974) disagrees with the idea of world food bank where all statesdeposit according to their abilities and withdraw according to theirneeds. This is a one-way flow of resources from the rich to the poor.

Hardin G. (1974)argues the poor are responsible for their suffering. Lack of planningis seen as the reason for the problems poor nations encounter. Thereare certain calamities that a country needs to anticipate and prepareadequately to minimize the associated damages. However, citizens ofimpoverished usually migrate to developed countries when theyexperience natural or man-made problems. The result of the migrationis what Hardin G. call “ruin in the commons.” In this case, bothnatives and foreigners claim rights but not responsibilities. Theconsequence is the rapid depletion of shared resources. When thenatives (rich) refrain from over-exploiting the commons, they suffermore than the refugees whose needs are greater. According to Hardin(1974), citizens from underdeveloped nations should not be admittedinto rich countries. They should be left to reduce naturally to thecapacity which can be adequately sustained their resources. Poorcountries will also learn from its past and formulate strategies toprevent history from repeating.


There is acapacity for every lifeboat. All people on board drown when thiscapacity is exceeded. In most cases, developed nation have reservedspace for safety reasons. According to Hardin’s (1974) argument,citizens of poor nations are always overcrowded and are forced tomove to rich countries that operate by the analogy of a lifeboat.There are three options that receiving countries have when they arefaced with the dilemma of immigrants. The first option is to admitall foreigners who are in need. The consequence for this option issuffering or destruction to both residents and foreigners. The secondoption is admitting only the number than fits the unused reservedcapacity. This option is characterized by neglecting safety factorand discrimination of would-be immigrants when selecting them. Thelast option is to admit no one. This is the option that Hardin G.(1974) supports.

The rate at whichthe population an underdeveloped nation grows is extremely higherthan that of a wealthy country. When immigrants from poor countriesare allowed into wealthy ones, there is a possibility that the formerwill outnumber the latter at some point. The total population willexceed the resources within the host country. Therefore, the richwill start becoming poor at a high rate. Additionally, at such point,the predominant culture will be exotic. This is not the case. Agradual influx of foreigners is little threat to the natives becausethe immigrant will largely assimilate ways of the new home (DummettM., 2001). The foreign population may only contribute few newelements to the manners of the foreigners. The new elements will beaccepted if they are consistent with the latter. Immigrants pose adanger of submergence of the native population when they come withina short time and in large numbers. However, in most cases, the ratioof immigrants to the natives is usually small.

Hardin (1974)supports the lifeboat perspective with the “ruin in the commons.”When individuals privately own properties, they will takeresponsibility to care for them otherwise, they will be victims oftheir negligence. When the ownership of a property is communal(commons), no one will take responsibility to manage it but willclaim the right to benefit from it. Likewise, when the movement ofpeople between countries is not restricted, the situation of thecommons is results. Both immigrants and natives will claim the rightto the resources in the host country before responsibility. Therewill be no management of the resources and thus, their depletion willbe rapid. However, when people move into a foreign country, they donot deprive the natives their property rights. Furthermore, theleadership of the country is not altered. The effect of immigrants onthe management of the resource is minimal when the leadership isstrong. When the natives complain of unfairness in employment, it isthe failure of their leadership and not immigrants. Countries haveestablished organizations that deal with the allocation andmanagement of resources. Immigrants will be assimilated into thesystem of their host country (Dummett, 2001).

The idea of the world food bank is described as one-way transfer ofresources from the rich to the poor. This is true since countriesdeposit according to the abilities and withdraw based on their needs. It is obvious that developed nations will deposit more compared tothe developing ones. Impoverished have greater needs, and thus, theywill withdraw more than developed ones. Taxpayers are burdened sincethey are the ones whose money is used in purchasing food for thepoor. On the other hand, the likelihood of citizens of a developingbeing lazy increases. This is because they know that they canwithdraw from the world food bank when they are in need.

Another pointwhere taxpayers’ money is used in underdeveloped countries isthrough aid. Aids are usually given to the poor especially when thereexperience man-made or natural catastrophe. However, according toDummett (2001), the citizens of any nation have a moralresponsibility to other people whom their actions or negligence mayaffect. During calamities or wars in a given country, citizens havethe moral obligation to ensure the safety of the victims. When theycontribute towards any kind of aid to the victims of war, theyfulfill their responsibility. They are considered irresponsible theyfail to respond positively at such a time. Dependence on aid is asign of lack of planning for calamities.

Hardin G. (1974)argues that the poor should be left to learn from their mistakes andplan for the future. On the contrary, Dummett (2001) argues thatleaving the underdeveloped countries to learn from their failures isa punishment. Instead, wealthy countries should apply the Christianideal, be their brother’s keeper. Developed nations have theresponsibility to help the poor during times of need. They have theresponsibility to raise the underdeveloped to a position in whichthey can manage their resources effectively at any time. Some of thepoor countries come from areas with very limited resources, prone tonatural calamities, or political instability. When individuals withlimited resources are faced with problems beyond their control, theywill need assistance to survive. Therefore, foreign aid is important.Dummett’s (2001) stand on the green revolution is effective. Thegreen revolution was started by wealthy nations to help the poorsustain themselves at any time. It is true that when you teach a manhow to catch fish, he will eat for the rest of his days (Hardin G.,1974).


It is unethicalto denounce to the responsibility that a country has towards thecitizens of other countries. Therefore, Hardin’s (1974) argumentthat the admission of immigrants into a foreign country should berestricted or not permitted is unethical. Despite the fact thatimmigrants burden the host country, every country has the moralobligation to ensure the safety of its citizens and would-beimmigrants. Preventing individuals from entering another country onthe basis that they will cause submergence of the natives is null.Immigrants are always assimilated to the culture of their hostcountry and thus cannot overwhelm the residents. Immigration and theruin in the common since it is the responsibility of governmental andnon-governmental agencies to ensure efficient management offoreigners. Effective management ensures adaptation to the changingenvironment. However, immigration policies should be conditional toprevent unnecessary movement into a country.


Dummett M. (2001), On Immigration and Refugees, Routledge

Hardin, G. (1974). Commentary: Living on aLifeboat.&nbspBioScience,&nbsp24(10), 561-568.

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