Byron Burgers and open borders

Useful article by Don Flynn (former Migrant Rights Network director) on the Byron Burgers shopping of their employees. Flynn makes three key points against those who say that Byron are a victim of UK immigration policy:

Firstly, employers have generally been beneficiaries of deregulated labour markets that have been a major driver of immigration:

employers have benefitted enormously from the deregulation of labour markets over the years which have been one of the main driving forces of large-scale migration.  Across whole sectors of the economy – from food production and processing, hotels and restaurants, construction and health and care services, retailing and more – there is scarcely a company in the UK which has not factored in the ready availability of hundreds of thousands of workers with minimal rights to job security into its business plans.  The rise of the ‘gig’ economy is the big story of recent years, and its birth has been nursed along by successive governments which have demanded the maximum of flexibility from its workforce.

Secondly, businesses that have benefitted from deregulated labour markets have been silent on the issue of immigrant worker welfare:

Tens of thousands of businesses across the UK are, like Byron Hamburgers, massively dependent on a migrant labour force as the source of their profits.  But whilst they form part of a powerful pressure group on government policy on matters concerning other areas of regulation business has remained silent when it comes to issues that concern the security and welfare of the workers who are responsible for making their profits.

Thirdly, Byron were not legally obligated to set up their workers:

It is not true to say that Byron’s management were obliged by law to provide this level of cooperation [by setting up the entrapment meetings].  By the accounts they had provided to the media they say that they had discharged all their obligations under immigration law to check documents and keep them on file.  Furnished with this defence they were quite entitled to tell immigration officers that they had done what was required of them and any further action would have to be taken on the sole initiative of the Home Office itself.

Online at:



Open borders and the left

This is an interesting article by Peter Ramsay in favour of open borders. He is critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on immigration on the grounds that compassion is a problematic basis on which to argue in favour of free movement:

Corbyn is right that the uniting of compassion and social justice, on the one hand, with solidarity and internationalism, on the other, lies at the heart of the old left’s politics that have been revived in the Labour Party. The old left’s list of ‘values’ is superficially attractive but it contains a fatal flaw. By representing solidarity and internationalism as matters of compassion and social justice, the old left has played down the central aspect of internationalism – the common interests of wage earners in one country with the wage earners of other countries.

Ramsey draws out one of the problems with the focus on compassion when he says that:

This creates a tension between the old left and its potential supporters. When working classs voters express hostility to immigration, they appear to suffer a compassion failure and it is tempting to explain that as an expression of ingrained popular racism. As a result, the left often finds itself either bemoaning the supposedly racist attitudes of ordinary citizens or adapting to those citizens’ fear of immigration by promoting ‘firm but fair’ immigration controls, as the last Labour government did.

Ramsey then contrasts the old Labour Left view with that of Slajov Zizek. 

Zizek is right to argue that to demand ‘tolerance’ and ‘compassion’ from ordinary people in these circumstances is an inadequate response to the issues posed by mass migration. Instead, as Zizek puts it:

‘The only way to break this deadlock is to move beyond mere tolerance: we should offer others [refugees and migrants] not just our respect, but the prospect of joining them in a common struggle, since our problems today are problems we share.’

Zizek is surely correct that the only realistic long-term solution is for citizens and migrants to recognize their shared interests. 

Ramsey then goes on to point out that Zizek’s approach is also problematic. Zizek’s (Stalinist-influenced) support for states, (rather than ordinary working people), as the medium for social change leads him to advocate intergovernmental fora as a means to tackle the ‘migration crisis’. The idea of ‘common struggle ‘ is completely lost in the process:

Zizek proposes to enlarge, extend and reorganize the intergovernmental institutions that are currently relied on to shore up the existing global order. These are the very institutions that have evolved a fake version of internationalism in order to frustrate the democratic accountability of European governments to their citizens – as the recent Greek crisis dramatically demonstrated. They are the same institutions relied upon by the very Western states that have, over decades of imperialist and humanitarian meddling, reduced the Middle East, Afghanistan and North Africa to the chaos that has engendered the current refugee crisis. All this, Zizek proposes in the name of a ‘common struggle’ between those disenfranchised citizens and migrants. And he claims to be the realist!

Ramsay then advocates open borders as the only realistic solution (against Corbyn & Zizek). 

The political demand for open borders, by contrast, poses a realistic political way of life as opposed to tired Europe’s fantasising; a way of life based upon taking collective responsibility for our existence as human beings rather than trying to evade it; a way of life that is well adjusted to global reality. Open borders is not a political demand that will immediately appeal to a majority of people, and it will not save the Labour Party’s bacon at the next election. It is not ‘realistic’, if by ‘realistic’ you mean what will allow you to get your hands on the levers of the existing state apparatus at the next opportunity. But it is the only real basis upon which the ordinary citizens of Europe could make common cause with the rest of humanity and begin to take control of our societies from our corrupt and exhausted elites.

You can read the full article at:

Open Borders and the EU referendum

An article by Chris Gilligan (Open Borders Scotland) on the issue of sovereignty. The article points out that in liberal political theory sovereignty is concieved as a social contract in which rights are guaranteed to citizens – but in doing so this contract also divides humanity along national lines:

In the tradition of liberal political thought sovereignty is conceived as a social contract. We, as citizens, give up our power to the state. We allow the state to be the supreme authority (the sovereign) within the territorial borders of the nation-state. In return, the state promises to act in the best interests of its citizens. In liberal democratic states both parties, the state on the one side and its citizens on the other, are bound to this bargain. In return for giving up our power to the state we are conferred rights, which prevent states from abusing this power that we have given them. This contract, then, involves two parties – citizens and the state…

This contract also, however, involves demarcating citizens from non-citizens; those who are party to the contract and those who are not. In a world of nation-states, sovereignty is always national sovereignty. Consequently… one of the fundamental problems with sovereignty is that it necessarily divides humanity on national lines.

The article argues that the issue of immigratin is so contentious in Europe today because large numbers of ordinary working people feel that this social contract has broken down.

The issue of migration has become one of the most contentious issues in Europe today because many citizens feel that the social contract–– government of the people, for the people, by the people––has been broken. Few citizens in Europe today think that their government acts for the people. There is widespread political disaffection…

Many… ordinary people… feel distant from the political elite. They complain that ‘No one listens to us’ and ‘If you haven’t got money, no one cares’.

For many ordinary working people immigration policy is an index of their government’s distance from them and their everyday concerns.

The article argues, against the prevailing perception, that those who feel disaffected from political elites (large numbers of them in favour of Brexit, and avowedly anti-immigrant) have a lot in common with immigrants. They are the disadvantaged and marginalised, and they share a common desire for greater freedom to control their own lives. The article argues that a major problem with the anti-EU/anti-immigrant viewpoint is that it accepts a national framework:

One of the problems with this anti-immigrant sentiment is that it accepts the idea that ‘we’ as citizens have common interests. The interests of elites and the mass of ordinary working people, however, are not the same…

We should not chain ourselves to the nation-state; we should view our political elites as they view us. They are foreign to us.

As long as political demands are framed in national terms they will favour the interests of elites, not the mass of ordinary people.

The article argues that, whatever the outcome of the referendum, those who desire human freedom should not dismiss the concerns of ordinary working people, but should continue to develop and make the case for open borders:

A Brexit will not put power in the hands of ordinary working people. Remain will keep us in the same mess we already inhabit. The issue of immigration, however, will not go away. Instead of dismissing the mass of ordinary working people as stupid, gullible racists we should recognise that they have a lot in common with immigrants. Whatever way the vote goes, we, immigrants and ordinary working people, should work hard to promote the idea that political elites are the real foreigners. Front and centre of that discussion should be the question of what kind of world do we want to live in and how do we combine to achieve our common interest in freedom.

The article is available online at:



Arguing for open borders

This article (by Chris Gilligan of Open Borders Scotland) makes a plea to develop human-centred arguments for open borders.

We need a human-centred approach to migration. We need to develop, make and win arguments that put humanity first. Arguments that put people before profit. Arguments that prioritise free movement over free markets. Arguments that prioritise humanity over humanitarianism. Arguments that prioritise human freedom over human resource management. Arguments that put freedom before finance. If the way that we currently organise human society makes it impossible to provide human freedom, then there is a problem with the way that society is organised. This is a problem for humanity, not a problem of humanity.

The article outlines some of the common fears expressed about immigrantion (and, even amongst people who are sympathetic to immigrants, about open borders).

The idea of open borders frightens many people in Europe (and in other affluent parts of the world). They see a world in which war and conflict is commonplace. They see a world in which billions live on less than two dollars a day. They see a world of financial chaos, job insecurity, homelessness, rising poverty. They see a world in which they live in fear of terrorist attack. They see a world in which old certainties are being swept aside in the winds of global change…

Restricting human movement, however, won’t eradicate poverty or homelessness, it won’t end war and violence. It will, at best, maintain the current inequitable distribution of misery and opportunity between the west and the rest…

The article also argues that we can discern some elements of a future human-centred society in the present. In the human-centred response of many to the plight of immigrants in Europe today.

At the borders of Europe, in the treacherous seas, on the roads, in the camps, in the detention centres and in the tortuous limbo of waiting to hear the outcome of asylum claims, hundreds of thousands of people are asking, ‘are we not human?’ And, in response, hundreds of thousands of citizens in Europe are saying ‘we recognise your humanity’. They are organising rescue boats. They are providing lifts to weary migrants. They are organising soup kitchens and other food outlets. They are organising clothes collections and toy collections. They are travelling across the continent to help deliver to those in need. They are helping to comfort the grieving. They are helping to bury the dead with dignity. They are befriending people in detention. They are organising legal advice. They are helping with accommodation. And, they are helping to bring laugher, to brighten up the darkest corners of our souls, to help people to laugh and cry at the joy of being human.

And the article argues that we should not view immigrants as victims or as a threat, but as potential allies in making a better world for all human beings.

The full article is available online at:

Also available at:

Brexit and the immigration issue

The issue of immigration has been the topic that has involved the most impassioned debate around the UK’s ‘In-Out’ Referendum on the EU. Follow the link below for an article on the topic by OBS’s Chris Gilligan. The article is in the form of an Open Letter criticising the stance on the Referendum taken by the London based online magazine Spiked. The article was originally submitted to Spiked, but was rejected by its editor, Brendan O’Neill.

Open Letter on Spiked‘s ‘Leave the EU’ campaign

Joseph Carens on Open Borders

Joseph H Carens is one of the most prominent academic advocates for Open Borders. He argues that all liberal democratic states should have open borders, and this stand is consistent with liberal democratic principles. As he puts it, his positive case for open borders starts from three basic interrelated assumptions:

First, there is no natural social order. The institutions and practices that govern human beings are ones that human beings have created and can change, at least in principle. Second, in evaluating the moral status of alternative forms of political and social organisation, we must start from the premise that all human beings are of equal moral worth. Third, restrictions on the freedom of human beings require a moral justification. These three assumptions are not just my views. They undergird the claim to moral legitimacy of every contemporary democratic regime.

You can find a useful short version of his argument at: