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Fair Borders? Migration Policy in the Twenty-First Century

Fair Borders? Migration Policy in the Twenty-First Century – a new BWB Text edited by David Hall

In recent years the movement of migrants and refugees has filled the headlines. Refugees from Syria, Britain’s Brexit and Trump’s wall have all attracted attention to questions of migration and migration policy.

But debates about migration are all too often reduced to the trite, the trivial and the opportunistic. For context and convenience we fall back into received notions, find ourselves targeted with familiar political rhetoric, and harangued with the economic certainties of costs and benefits. The arrival of this new BWB Text, Fair Borders? Migration Policy in the Twenty-First Century, is then an especially timely and welcome addition to the intellectual vocabulary with which to engage this complex subject. It is fresh, provocative and enriching.

Fair Borders, adeptly introduced and skillfully edited by David Hall, draws together a diverse range of mostly younger writers and emerging scholars – demographers, geographers, political scientists and activists – to discuss whether New Zealand’s immigration policy offers a 'fair go’ to those just arriving, and to those who arrived a long time ago. In so doing it offers boundary-pushing perspectives and reminders that when we talk about migrants we are talking about people, not just numbers. As Hall notes in his introduction, 'to pretend to do [immigration] policy without values – as some economists purport to do – invariably comes at a cost to both truthfulness and compassion'.

Hall frames this collection of essays around the principle of fairness. Fairness is relevant to migration-related concerns such as the right to freedom of movement, the brute luck of birthplace, the arbitrariness of state power, and the reproduction of injustices along the lines of class, race, religion, gender and ability. Fairness also goes beyond commonplace definitions 'and connects to other values such as justice, equality, liberty and peace'. Furthermore, the idea of fairness is deeply embedded in New Zealand society’s idea of itself.

As the 2017 election campaign approaches, much will be written and said on immigration. For anybody seeking a deeper, more diverse and nuanced appreciation of the subject, the essays in this valuable and insightful BWB Text are an essential starting point:

Andrew Chen (The University of Auckland): on how we have coped with the thorny moral issues of immigration in our national conversation

Francis Collins (The University of Auckland): on New Zealand’s growing reliance on temporary migrant workers

Nina Hall (Hertie School of Governance, Berlin): on climate refugees and the complicated reasons for why people move

Hautahi Kingi (economist): on the evidence for migration as a global economic good and the tensions and trade-offs that follow

Tahu Kukutai (The University of Waikato) and Arama Rata (The University of Waikato): on the relationship between today’s migration policy and the mass migration that occurred as part of our colonial history

Evelyn Marsters (Impolitikal): on how borders run not only around the edges of national communities, but through the middle of them too

Kate McMillan (Victoria University of Wellington): on the right to vote for non-citizen residents

Murdoch Stephens (Massey University): on his campaign to raise New Zealand’s annual refugee quota

About the editor

David Hall is a writer, editor and policy researcher based in Auckland. He has written for various publications, including the New Zealand Listener, Pantograph Punch, The Journal for Urgent Writing, and Auckland Art Gallery's Reading Room Journal. His recent policy work focused on tree planting as a mitigation strategy for climate change. He has a D.Phil in Politics from the University of Oxford and currently holds the role of Senior Researcher at The Policy Observatory, AUT.

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