Does the Risk of Terrorism Justify Migration Restrictions?

Verfassungsblog in Germany, which focuses on legal theories and constitutional issues, published my article, “Does terrorism’s threat justify migration restrictions?” This is a short excerpt.

Beginning in 2001 with the War on Terror, especially after the rise of ISIS, the Syrian Civil War and its subsequent 2011 start, Western nations have adopted many policies that bar migrants and refugees from their countries based on fears of terrorist attacks. They range from the US’s anti Muslim travel bans to the restrictions imposed by several European countries following the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis.

This is March 2022. European nations are more accepting of refugees fleeing Russia’s invading Ukraine. However, a similar backlash against migrants could occur in this instance, particularly if it continues for long periods.

In both Europe and the United States, fears of terrorism and violence have been exploited by anti-immigrant nationalist political movements….

Terrorism concerns are understandable to a certain extent. The actual threat of terrorism from migrants is low. It is possible to reduce this risk by other means than banning large numbers of refugees fleeing oppression and horrific violence. Indeed, accepting such refugees can actually help combat terrorism more than further it…. It might seem reasonable to bar migrants in order to reduce marginal risks. However, it would not be morally right to do so if there was no significant financial penalty. However, it is wrong to bar migrants fleeing persecution and war. It inflicts enormous harm, violates human rights against unjust discrimination, and is also inimical to concepts of dignity prominent in modern European and international law jurisprudence….

The rest of the article defends the above points in detail, based on both moral considerations empirical evidence from  Europe and the United States. Although we can’t conclude that terrorist threats could be, Never To justify any restrictions on migration, we should have a strong anti-immigration presumption.

The article is adapted in part from my book You are free to move: Voting by foot, migration and political freedom The revised paperback version of this book is now available.