Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Category: International (Page 1 of 5)

Why citizens should choose which refugees to admit to their states

In this post, Patti Lenard discusses her recent article in Journal of Applied Philosophy on the ethics of citizen selection of refugees.


The situation for refugees world-wide is persistently horrendous.  Globally, there is pressing, urgent, need to adopt create ways to support them. In a recent article, I argue that governments should adopt private or community sponsorship of refugee schemes, which permit citizens to select specific refugees for admission, if they are willing to bear the costs of resettlement.  They are one crucial way forward in bleak times.

Millions of individuals who have fled their countries, seeking safety from state-sponsored and supported persecution, and never-ending civil wars, languish in nearby countries of refuge.  These refugees struggle to find “permanent” solutions, that is, a political space in which they set up roots and start their lives anew.  Instead, they remain in precarious political and legal environments, often barred from working, hoping for adequate handouts from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees or other non-governmental organizations.

Global efforts to collaborate to provide more and better options for refugees are hampered by many factors.  First, global north states’ are proving unwilling to resettle more (or sometimes any) refugees.  Second, global south states’ are rightly frustrated at being forced to bear the costs of offering refuge. Third, the number of refugees in need of safety continues to grow.  There is no easy solution.  And whatever “solution” is devised will inevitably be multi-pronged, carried out by many actors, across a range of countries.

Community or private sponsorship programs permit and encourage citizens to participate in refugee resettlement, by giving them the opportunity to raise money and offer direct, intimate, support to specific refugees, for their period of early integration. This program is in its most advanced state in Canada, which has permitted the private sponsorship formally since the late 1970s, and informally earlier than that.  In collaboration with the UNHCR and the Open Society, the Government of Canada has been encouraging other countries to adopt private or community sponsorship models of refugee selection and resettlement.

Why adopt private sponsorship programs?

There are multiple advantages to this kind of program.  One advantage is that it encourages citizens to get involved directly in refugee resettlement.  Just as the “contact hypothesis” suggests, citizens who form relations with refugees develop an understanding of the struggles they face in integration and generally support admitting more refugees.  They are also less likely to believe (erroneously) that refugees overuse social services or raise crime rates.

A second advantage is that private or community sponsorship spreads the costs of resettlement across multiple actors, both public and private.  These costs are financial, since resettlement of refugees costs money at least in the short-term, as well as also emotional, since sponsors form intimate relations with refugees as part of the integration process.  These relations give newly arrived refugees roots in their new home, in ways that government-funded settlement workers cannot do.

A third advantage is that sponsorship can, if arranged properly, give citizens a vehicle by which to add to the overall number of refugees admitted to a state for resettlement.  So, citizens worried about injustice towards refugees have an avenue by which they can make clear a clear and concrete contribution to remedying it.

Are there any dangers to sponsorship programs?

There are disadvantages too.  One stems from the fact that resettlement, as a “solution” for refugees, is rare; that is, it is a highly scarce resource.  There are 20 million refugees.  Out of desperation, the UNHCR designates roughly 1 million of them as in special need of resettlement; these are refugees who remain highly vulnerable to violence in their countries of refuge, and whose prospect of local integration into their country of refuge, or to return home, is vanishingly small.  Of these, however, only just over 100 000 are actually resettled in any one year. One might think (as I do) that any resettlement spot made available via private sponsorship must be given to these highly vulnerable refugees.

One might object to private sponsorship programs, however, saying that citizens may have discriminatory reasons for preferring some refugees for admission over others, and they should not be given opportunities to act on such reasons.  Think of the many countries who announced an intention to prioritize the admission of Christian refugees for example (thereby excluding the many, many, Muslim refugees in desperate need).  Any private or community sponsorship regime, I believe, must reduce opportunity for discriminatory selection, for example, by listing available refugees for sponsorship with minimal distinguishing characteristics.

A second problem, this time with constraining citizens’ choice to highly vulnerable refugees, is that it may be the case that private sponsors are willing to take on the costs of sponsorship if and only if they are permitted to sponsor friends and family members.  Yet, these individuals may not be identified by the UNHCR as especially vulnerable. Requiring citizens to select among those who are high priority may therefore decrease motivation to sponsor, and so make the situation worse than if citizens could choose whomever they want.  In my view, the right strategy is to encourage selection from those who are most vulnerable, but also to create an “exception” clause permitting people to sponsor friends and family, even if they are not specially prioritized for scarce resettlement spots. In part, this is because options for family reunification in resettlement countries remain small, so providing private or community sponsorship options for families to reunite is important.

If these criteria are met, then a citizen-selection scheme is defensible, and furthermore, should be adopted by states in search of ways to contribute creatively to remedying the injustices that refugees face globally.

Was the Killing of General Soleimani Justified? An Ethical Analysis

This post is co-written with Anh Le (University of Manchester)

The killing of General Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds force, has, once again, ignited the debate surrounding the practice of targeted killing. Much has been said about the legality and prudence of this strike. In this post, we assess the morality of this strike. From an ethical perspective, there are two paradigms that can justify the state’s killing of individuals: just war and law enforcement (there is, in addition, the emerging framework of jus ad vim but we’ll stick with the two familiar paradigms in this post). Any justified state-sanctioned killings have to fall within the purview of these two paradigms. If a particular act of killing fails to meet the rigorous demands of both paradigms, then such killing is unjust. In this post, we will analyse both possible justifications.

Read More

What do we owe the victims of exploitation?

In this post, Erik Malmqvist and András Szigeti discuss their recent article in Journal of Applied Philosophy on the remedial duties arising from exploitation.


We tend to think that exploiting people is morally wrong. And yet, this kind of wrong is uncomfortably close to home for many of us. Likely, the clothes you wear today or the computer you use to read this piece were produced by workers who received meagre pay for dangerous and exhausting work. Since exploitation is so widespread and not something most of us can wash our hands of, we have to ask what is required to set things straight after exploitation has happened. This is the question we have raised in a recent article.

Read More

What should I do about climate change and other global environmental problems?

In this post, Christian Baatz, Laura García-Portela and Lieske Voget-Kleschin present the special issue on questions related to individual environmental responsibility they recently published in Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics (JAGE).

Is it enough to lobby for climate change politics? Or do I need to limit my personal greenhouse gas emissions? While these questions seem like a non-starter for environmentally aware people, they are actually at the core of a broad ethical debate. The special issue tackles what individuals should do, when moral requests become overly demanding and if we need new ethical theory to adequately address these issues.

Read More

People versus Parliament: an interpretation

Motto: Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

 And elect another? 

(from ‘The Solution’ by Bertolt Brecht)

The UK Parliament has been prorogued from the 9th of September to the 14th of October 2019 – days before the UK’s scheduled exit from the European Union. On its final day before suspension, the Parliament acknowledged Royal Assent on the Benn Bill (which effectively turned an act blocking No Deal into law), made a formal request to the Government to acknowledge obeying the rule of law regarding Brexit, and passed a binding motion for the Government to disclose private communications concerning its decision to prorogue Parliament and its No Deal plans.

Read More

Should we obey immigration laws?

In many countries, governments impose legal duties on citizens regulating their interactions with unauthorized immigrants. It is for example forbidden to provide them with access to employment, housing or transportation, and even sometimes to merely assist them in some way. In France, for example, there has been a lasting debate about the so-called “délit de solidarité” (offense of solidarity) – a law forbidding citizens to bring assistance to illegal immigrants.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "délit de solidarité"

Are we, citizens of rich countries, under a moral duty to obey or disobey such laws?

Read More

Earth Day 2019 – Protecting Species or Individuals?

Today – the 22nd of April – hundreds of millions of people across the globe will come together to participate in Earth Day. This is a day dedicated to political action, activism, and engagement, on matters of climate justice, environmental rights, and environmental protection. However, the theme this year – Protect Our Species – raises important questions: Should we be concerned about protecting our species, rather than nonhuman individuals?

Photo by Frans Van Heerden

Read More

What would it take to turn Facebook into a democracy?

by Severin Engelmann and Lisa Herzog*

When the relation between “Facebook” and “democracy” is discussed, the question usually is: what impact does Facebook – as it exists today – have on democratic processes? While this is an urgent and important question, one can also raise a different one: what would it mean to turn Facebook into a democracy, i.e. to govern it democratically? What challenges of institutional design would have to be met for developing meaningful democratic governance structures for Facebook?

Read More

Technological Justice

Relaxed senior adult wearing eyeglasses works on a laptop computer at home.

At least in the developed world, technology pervades all aspects of human life, and its influence is growing constantly. Major technological challenges include automation, digitalisation, 3 D printing, and Artificial Intelligence. Does this pose a need for a concept of “technological justice”? If we think about what “technological justice” could mean, we see that the concept is closely connected to other concepts of justice. Whether we are talking about social justice, environmental justice, global justice, intergenerational justice, or gender justice – at some point we will always refer to technology. It looks as if a concept of technological justice could be useful to draw special attention to technology’s massive impact on human lives, although the respective problems of justice can also be captured by more familiar concepts.

Read More

Why central banks must change before the next crisis hits

Our recent book Do Central Banks Serve the People? sheds a critical light on the actions of central banks in the wake of the 2007 financial crisis. Using the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England as examples, we show how they have stretched their mandate beyond their traditional tasks of price stability and financial stability. This short introduction to the book summarizes the argument that the expanded role of central banks has three serious drawbacks.

Read More

Page 1 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén