Teresa Hayter: Interview

 

BEYOND BORDERS

Spectre speaks to Teresa Hayter, campaigner for refugees' rights. The title of Teresa Hayter's recent book, Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls, speaks for itself. At the end of February, 2001, Spectre travelled to London to interview the author.



Spectre: Would you describe what is going on in Britain at the moment as anti-refugee hysteria?



TH: Yes, I think there has been a lot of hostility towards asylum seekers for quite a while from the right and the tabloid press and it does seem to be a kind of hysteria. 'Asylum seeker' has now become a term of abuse in school playgrounds and so on. Newspapers seem to be able to get away with attacking asylum seekers in a way which they couldn't, under the Race Relations Act, if they attacked blacks, so asylum seekers have become the new demons. I hold the government responsible - members of the government have been going on about 'bogus asylum seekers' since they were elected and it's outrageous because it's completely wrong to call them bogus. The authorities claim that because they turn down 80% of them and that this means that 80% of them are bogus - but that's rubbish too, it just means they've turned down a whole lot of people who ought to be given asylum. Sometimes these days they turn them down because they've dispersed them to somewhere where they don't have access to lawyers, so they don't manage to get their forms filled in, so they lose their cases and get turned down.



Spectre: Doesn't this treatment go against Britain's treaty obligations?



TH: You could say so, well, it's certainly inhuman and degrading treatment, locking people up without trial, breaking up families, in effect allowing people to be tortured by deporting them to places where they have been and will be tortured but, also, I think you could argue that more and more they are acting against the spirit of the UN Convention for Refugees. Whether you could actually prove that they are breaking the law, I don't know. The reality is that the Geneva Convention says that they have a legal obligation to allow people to enter this country to claim asylum and they are doing their utmost to stop people entering this country to claim asylum and they are doing this in two main ways. One is trying to deter them by making conditions harsh in this country by locking up more and more people - the numbers locked up have risen rapidly by about 1500 since the election, from about eight hundred locked up at any one time. They've announced that by next year they want to lock up four thousand at any one time. So there is a massive building programme of detention centres for locking people up and it is done without trial or time limit and on a completely arbitrary basis. These are people who have acted entirely within their rights, who have not broken any laws whatsoever.



Spectre: This sort of treatment occurs in other countries, doesn't it?



TH: The British were one of the first and I think they are still one of the worst, the only European country that locks people up without any judicial process and also that does it without time limit. There are lots of campaigns in France on detention but then you find out there is a time limit of twelve days. If they can't deport them on the twelfth day they have to let them out. The other thing in Britain that is unacceptable is giving people vouchers instead of welfare benefits. Vouchers are stigmatising and reduce people to destitution or less than the minimum considered necessary for the natives. It also cost 50% more than it would to pay people normal cash benefits, incidentally. The other thing is dispersal. You hear horror stories - people taken far away from their families and their communities. The way that he government talks about asylum seekers, which stigmatises them and lays them open to racist attack, them and anyone else who looks foreign, is another way of deterring asylum seekers. It makes you wonder to what extent it's deliberately intended to stir up racism against asylum seekers in the hope that it might make people less likely to come here. Secondly they try to stop them leaving their own countries at all, which is totally against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that people should have the freedom to leave their own countries, though it doesn't say anything about them entering another one. They impose visa requirements systematically on countries in which there are conditions which create refugees, wars and repression and so on. If a person already has a passport they could go to a British Embassy, but if they go to a British Embassy they must not say they want asylum because then they would be sent straight out. So they would have to apply by deception for a visitors' or a student visa. They would be very unlikely to get that because you require all sorts of proof and money and contacts and so on. So I think very few people do that, what they do is go to agents and buy false papers - and that's becoming an increasingly unsafe method of travelling because of carriers' liability, which means that the airlines and shipping companies which carry refugees are fined if they carry people without papers or the wrong papers. The government is aiding them with special equipment to detect forgeries and it's also posting its own officials at airports. It boasts that it managed to discover so many thousands of people with false papers and it then hands them back to presumably the people from whom they are fleeing in the first place. So People are forced more and more to travel clandestinely and to hide in the hulls of boats and lorries and so on. Then of course that's more fodder for the media as they immediately become 'illegal immigrants'. Kurds who get in a boat to flee are described as illegal immigrants and then the government has the gall to shed crocodile tears about the suffering and deaths which result from a situation they've actually created themselves, for which they are entirely responsible. They are calling them 'people traffickers' and arguing that they make huge profits, several million pounds a year, which they want to stamp out, but it's all part of the process of trying to keep people out. Jack Straw (British Home Secretary (interior minister) - ed) has recently proposed that refugees should not try to travel to this country at all and that they should go to so-called reception centres in neighbouring countries where a favoured few could be selected, cherry-picked by European governments for protection in Europe. Straw suggests they might do it like the USA and Canada do it, which is partly on the basis of skills they have. Then there is the carrot and stick thing - that if those people are lucky enough to be picked they would avoid what Straw calls these 'hazardous' journeys. So they'd be transported by the British, having got their visa for Britain - and anybody else who comes from a country near which there is a safe country which has these reception camps will be sent straight back to reception camps. This is a proposal which does require some revision of the 1951 Convention. None of this is working. People are still coming - there are as many asylum seekers as ever applying for asylum in Europe. How long they will carry on spending money on more and more efforts to try and stop people before they finally give up the ghost and abandon it and say what's the point? - we might as well allow free movement and maybe do something about not creating conditions which cause people to flee in the first place. The Sun (very right wing, very popular British newspaper - ed) today was saying that Kurds who had set off to come to Britain were fleeing from bombs dropped by Saddam Hussein. Well, as far as I know the only bombs that have been dropped in Iraq recently have been by the British and the US and Turkish airforces. It's so contradictory to say that you shouldn't be fleeing and at the same time be dropping bombs and making people starve and saying that Saddam Hussein is a monster who has to be opposed by any means - and then when people try and flee they call them illegal immigrants and chuck them out.



Spectre: There is always a distinction made between 'economic' and 'political' refugees, a distinction which doesn't seem to hold much water. Surely denying someone a livelihood is a form of oppression?













TH:I totally reject the moral distinction between political refugees and other people coming for work. Lots of people wouldn't like to be described as refugees - I suppose the reality is that people who make it to Europe are not the extremely poor and probably never will be, even if there weren't immigration controls. They are people who want to improve their lives, who come from slightly better off situations, or else they couldn't possibly afford to make the journey even if there weren't any immigration controls and certainly if they had to pay traffickers. So they are people who come because there are jobs here, partly because of the skewed development promoted by globalisation, the free market and the demands to open up markets to multinational investment and so on that draws people into towns in the third world. This creates economic networks which people are bound to take advantage of if they can, and why shouldn't they, if there are jobs here then why shouldn't people come for them? That's how it was before there were controls. If you look at people migrating to Britain before 1962, when immigration controls were introduced, the numbers correlated almost exactly with job vacancies. More came when there were more vacancies and fewer came when there were fewer vacancies, and decisions to migrate or not were based on information from existing communities in Britain. People do not come here to live off benefits, unless they are desperately fleeing, unless they are political refugees. They probably do come here, would come whatever the hardship, but obviously they would prefer to work. Then they wouldn't be a 'burden'. That's another thing the government has created, this idea that refugees are a burden. It's done it by stopping them working. For six months they can't work - then if they are lucky and persistent they may get a piece of paper out of the Home Office which will give them the right to work. And then the piece of paper that they get says that they are liable to detention, which doesn't please employers much. The Home Office has produced a document recently about migration and its economic and social consequences. It carries all sorts of disclaimers about it not being government policy, but merely one of the things which they decided to publish. It was good. One of the things it says is that foreign born residents in Britain make a net contribution to public finances of about 2.6 billion pounds a year - because they arrive already educated, they are usually young, fit and of the prime working age 25 to 35. (The full text of this research is available on the UK Home Office website) In the period before immigration controls France and Germany had net immigration and Britain had net emigration and France and Germany have done better economically, with much higher public expenditure and higher wages.

Spectre: You've been particularly involved in the campaign to have the refugee centre at Campsfield, near Oxford, closed. Can you bring us up to date on what's happened since you finished the book?

TH: The campaign's still going on. Since 1993 when we started we've had many demonstrations outside, the last Saturday of every month from 12-2 outside the gates at Campsfield and we also have monhly meetings, first Tuesday of every month at 6.30 p.m. in Oxford Town Hall. (see website for more details -ed) The demos vary quite a lot in size. We kept them going mainly because the people inside appreciate hearing us outside supporting them, they've really showed huge appreciation. Since we've been coming they've added to the fortifications, they put razor wire on the top of the outer fences, which is obviously mainly to stop people escaping. There have been quite a few escapes over the years from Campsfield. The fences have this sort of wire mesh on them with little holes which are slightly too small for fingers, to stop people climbing up them. We used to climb up ladders and look over the top and talk to people and also we climbed trees next to the fence and we could look over the top and talk to people. They cut down the trees just to stop us climbing up them and then they put metal sheeting all the way up to the top. So it's pretty impossible to look over the top. So they obviously don't like us demonstrating. There are big protests inside as well as outside. The regulations for visiting Campsfield have become harsher; it's become difficult to get to visit people. The thing we've been doing recently is to start setting up what we call an anti-detention network. There are about over 20 places where people are locked up, or where they are building new places to lock people up in, and we're hoping to organise demonstrations with other people, with local campaigns in all of these places over the next year, and create a network. A very active group opposes the building of Yarl's Wood, a new detention camp near Luton and Bedford. There is also a very active group opposing the 'reception' centre at Oakington near Cambridge. There's a group opposing detention in Rochester Prison, which is where people who for example make complaints in Campsfield are sent and which is even worse than Campsfield. We have contact with other campaigns in the north of England , they are converting prison wings - or not even converting them - for detainees at a place called Lindholme near Hull. A lot of asylum seekers get locked up in prisons - and not just moved to prisons as punishment but also initially locked up there. There is quite an active campaign in Liverpool. There are a lot of people campaigning in Birmingham. A lot of refugees are being locked up in prison so we're increasingly building a national network of people campaigning against detention.

Spectre: Do you have any contact with campaigns in other countries such as Belgium ?

TH: Yes, we organised a conference called 'Barbed Wire Europe' last September, which brought together activists from different countries.

Spectre: You talk in the book about how immigration officers seem to enjoy their work and how they formed a breakaway union because the civil service union they were members of supported an anti-racist initiative. Do you have any evidence of an organised far right presence in the service?

TH: Well, you have to wonder about what sort of people want to do a job whose only function is to expel people, to find holes in the cases of asylum seekers and to find ludicrous reasons for turning them down. There may be some sort of moral justification for being a policeman but immigration officials' only job is to expel people, to find holes in the cases of asylum seekers and to find ludicrous reasons for turning them down. They sometimes produce such stupid reasons that even the Home Office, and appointed adjudicators, find them ridiculous.

Spectre: Capitalism would seem to gain nothing but advantages from freedom of movement of labour. Certainly the Wall Street Journal has long opposed immigration controls and the Financial Times and other house journals of the ruling elite are coming around to this view. If this is the case, why do we have immigration controls?

TH: I think they are only explicable by racism. When they were introduced in 1905 it was after several years of agitation by the far right against Jewish refugees. There was this man Major Evans Gordon who was the founder of the British Brothers' League. He was an MP and he agitated with others and finally in 1905 got this Bill which stopped certain categories of aliens, and then it was only in 1919 that it was extended to all aliens. The second milestone was the introduction of controls on Commonwealth immigrants. They weren't classified as aliens, so they had free entry until 1962. In the 1950s and right up to 1962 all the mainstream politicians were saying in public that it was unthinkable that we should have immigration controls on the citizens of our Commonwealth and it would be the end of the Commonwealth and a disaster. Then there was racist agitation by people in Birmingham and Southall (London). The government commissioned reports to find out if there were any good reasons why immigration should be stopped. All these reports said that the workers were needed and that immigrants got jobs as soon as they got here, immigrants were not particularly prone to crime, didn't carry diseases. The only problem they could come up with was to do with 'assimilation'. They wanted basically to work out how they could stop black immigrants but allow as many white immigrants as they could get their hands on, including the Irish. Even though there was still quite a lot of racism towards the Irish, they were wanted. In the end, in the Act that was introduced, the only way they could think of doing it was to say Commonwealth citizens could get work vouchers in different categories, skilled and unskilled -and they hoped that the people who got skilled work vouchers would be white and the unskilled would be black and they could reject them without appearing to do it on racial grounds. One Tory Party Candidate in Smethwick, Birmingham, unseated a shadow minister, Patrick Gordon Walker, with an openly racist campaign in 1963. One leaflet said 'If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour'. The Labour Party maintained its opposition to controls until it got back into power in 1964. Its leader, Hugh Gaitskill, was right winger but he opposed immigration controls quite passionately. He died before Labour took office. It would be interesting to know if it would have made any difference if he'd lived to be Prime Minister.

Spectre: The labour movement historically has feared that unrestrained immigration would lower wages.

TH: There is in fact lots of evidence that higher levels of immigration create prosperity, create jobs, and actually in the end with more prosperity wages rise more, so even though there is initial competition it doesn't lower wages. Secondly, even supposing it did, I don't accept that we have the right to preserve white privilege. These are different arguments, because basically I think that immigration doesn't lower wages and that there are numerous arguments to be made to show that it is in the economic self-interest both of capitalists and the working classes of the rich countries that there should be more immigration.

The other argument is that if there is any pressure on wages and conditions from immigration, the pressure comes mostly from illegal immigrants. As the US trade unions have recently recognised, it's actually in their interest to demand an amnesty for illegal immigrants. The thing that makes it hard for people to struggle sometimes is the threat of deportation if their status is illegal. I remember going and interviewing an employer in the clothing trade. I went along when somebody was trying to recruit Turkish clothing workers in London. The boss was the only person who spoke English, so I talked to the boss and he was boasting about the fact that if you had any trouble from the workers, or if they tried to join a union, he could just have them deported as they had no legal status. Actually the immigrant workforce in Britain has been very combative and I think this is partly because they have had security. The ones who were here before 1962 have had complete rights of residence and have joined unions as readily as the native white population, or more so. If the left tries to argue that there must be controls in order to protect wages and conditions in the rich countries, I think that's a pretty immoral argument. If you're on the left, and supposedly an internationalist, I don't think you can accept that as a morally justified stand.

Spectre: Some people argue that the reason why people come to our countries is because theirs are poorer and therefore we should do something about that.

TH: Well, Yes, that's OK so long as it's not seen as some sort of excuse. You know there are some disgusting and cynical arguments - that we've got to have more aid in order to stop migration. First of all there are problems with the notion that more aid is going to make any difference, as it probably does more harm than good and damages the poor more than it helps them. But yes, if people are so worried about movements of population - which I think people are over worried about and partly for racist reasons - but if there is any kind of real worry about mass flows of poor people to richer countries, then the obvious answer is, well, for a start not to sell arms to repressive regimes and not to bomb and sanction Iraq into starvation like they've done, and also not to demand debt repayments and not to impose privatisation, public sector cuts, wage cuts and all the rest of it, in order to extract debt servicing which is completely unjust, the service of third world debt.

Spectre: What's happened as the EU has removed internal frontiers provides evidence for the idea that it wouldn't actually increase migration if that were done internationally. When Portugal and Spain joined, more people went home than took advantage of their right to move to a higher wage country, and since the 1970s the rate of labour mobility in the present EU has fallen.

TH: I feel slightly ambivalent about arguing that there wouldn't be a huge flow because I want to say never mind if there is, but what happened up to 1962 in Britain, for example, was that Pakistani families sent their young men to do a stnt in Britain, make some money and send it back. Maybe they stayed five years and sent back most of their wages and then they got replaced by a younger member of the family, younger and fitter, and the other one thankfully returned to Pakistan, and that's probably what people would like to do. And the same with refugees - they would probably go home sooner if they could be sure that they could come back again if they wanted to, or if the situation deteriorated. The Financial Times carried an article about Mexicans saying that every time the American authorities make border crossing harder they ensure that more people decide to go to the US and stay there rather than going for a bit and coming and going.

Spectre: But I don't think the argument is always a cop out. Reducing the gap between the rich and the poor countries would reduce the necessity for people to migrate, which is different to reducing or eliminating their right to do so.

TH: Well, you can't disagree with that. It must be right, it must be a long term goal, we must have more equality in the world, stop the exploitation of poor countries by rich countries. The only problem I have with it is that it's cynically misused. People say we've got to have more aid, more development and that's sometimes just because they don't want black people and poor people to come here. It's the wrong motivation for these policies. And because of that the arguments can easily be distorted and abused. What makes one suspicious of these sorts of arguments and cautious about them is that the EU and the French government and maybe others are starting to make aid conditional on governments readmitting people who fled from them, people whom the French government are trying to deport. Sometimes they can't deport people after they go through these elaborate processes of turning down their asylum claims and locking them up and all the rest of it. They can't deport them because their own governments won't give them papers so they put pressure on their governments to give tem papers and re-admit them and they threaten to cut aid if they won't. The French government has been going round their former colonies and saying they must stop emigration somehow, or you won't get money from us.

Spectre: What can we do about this injustice?

TH: We've all been campaigning for a long time and there are lots of good campaigns against detention like the campaign to close Campsfield, and against deportations. The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns - brings together very good campaigns against individual deportations and against the present laws. My belief is that we should broaden these campaigns, that we should bring into the discourse of these campaigns the demand for freedom of movement and no immigration controls, which is actually happening in Europe more than it is in Britain. In Europe we see campaigns for the generalised legalisation of 'illegals' and to cease to make people illegal by imposing immigration controls. We need obviously to campaign on an international scale, certainly on a European scale against immigration controls against third world nationals, and I think it should be part of our political campaign. You begin by getting the notion into the debate, and hope to shift the debate towards more freedom and one way obviously is to create a big fuss about the sorts of things done to people coming here, about detention and vouchers and so on. Maybe also to point out the costs of all these things. I'm sure the tabloids would be interested to know how much it costs. I once totted up what I could and I got to 800m pounds a year in Britain - but I'm not sure whether that's a very good argument to put. It's always been one of the big problems or one of the causes of racism, I reckon, this kind of treatment of refugees and immigrants. In the 1950s and 1960s immigrants were forced to live in poor housing and then were blamed for the state of the housing. The problem was recognised by the authorities, but it was said that if we improved te housing of immigrants then that would be an incentive for more to come. But when workers moved from other parts of Britain to Oxford to work in the car factory houses got built for them, as you would expect. If people were better treated then that would diminish racism.

Teresa Hayter's previous works include Urban Politics (1997), Aid as Imperialism (1971) and The Creation of World Poverty (1981). Open Borders was published last year by Pluto Press, in paperback at UK pounds 12.99, hardback 40.00. - Teresa Hayter was talking to Steve McGiffen and Marjorie Tonge.

Below, we print, with kind permission of Pluto Press, an extract from Teresa Hayter's book, Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls (Pluto Press, 2000)

RE-OPEN THE BORDERS: IMMIGRATION CONTROLS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

The strongest case against immigration controls is that they impose increasingly harsh suffering on migrants, including refugees. In the process they undermine a long list of human rights: the right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, the right not to be tortured, the right not to be arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned, the right to a fair trial by a properly constituted court, the right to family life, the right to work, among others. Immigration controls as they are currently practised violate the provisions of several international treaties to which the British government is a signatory.... They also tear families apart and prevent parents and children visiting each other, they force both migrants and refugees into the hands of often unscrupulous agents, they subject them to long periods of arbitrary detention and expose them to destitution, isolation and racial harassment. Refugees and asylum seekers in particular are punished not for anything which they themselves have done, but in a vain attempt to deter others. Proposals to reform and humanise the asylum system, even supposing they were realistic, would still leave refugees atthe mercy of necessarily uncertain decisions on the genuineness of their claims. The only way to ensure that refugees are really protected would be if there were no immigration controls. The current posture of governments appears to be, on the contrary, to try to cut the numbers of applications for asylum, let alone acceptances, through the ever harsher application of extremely repressive immigration controls. Such cruelty is incompatible with the hard-fought- for gains of liberal democratic societies.

To stop immigration altogether, and to reduce the numbers applying for asylum, as governments apparently wish to, would imply still more drastic measures, still less compatible with the aims of liberal democracy. Even then they might not succeed. Such measures would affect the population as a whole, reduce its democratic rights, and risk turning Europe into a police state. Already immigration officials and private security guards at refugee prisons have large and unaccountable powers. The immigration detention centres are reminiscent of concentration camps...the current treatment of refugees amounts to a dangerous undermining of democratic principles and the rule of law which could open the way to further abuses...There is a danger of creeping fascisisation of society. The morality of frontiers, where human rights are at their lowest, is threatening to invade the interiors of countries. The extension of internal controls will mean an increase in random checks, which so far are mainly checks on people who look foreign, especially blacks, but which affect black citizens, and potentially other citizens, as well. This has been going on for some time in some European countries, especially, as a result of the much hated Pasqua laws, in France, where police raids in public places and demands for North Africans in particular to show their papers are commonplace. Although Britain does not yet have compulsory identity cards, they may be on their way. Meanwhile, black British people find it prudent to carry aound proof of their right to be in Britain. A large amount of their time has to be spent in making sure their documents are in order. People have been caught, imprisoned and deported, sometimes after years of living in Britain with their families, as a result of failure to comply with some petty immigration procedure. The deprivation of welfare benefits for some sections of the population is, similarly, a slippery slope. After refugees, convicted criminals who fail to comply with community orders seem to be next in line. Since the British have a habit of adopting North American practices after a time lag, single mothers may soon be subjected to a maximum two-year limit on benefits. Immigration controls create illegal workers, who are vulnerable to savage exploitation. If the treatment of migrants and refugees is not opposed, it could become the norm and spread to other sectors of society. At the FASTI Europe Behind Barbed Wire conference in March 1997, Roland Dyaye, a member of the Sans-Papiers National Coordinating Committee (The French movement for undocumented foreign residents - ed), said of their movement: Basically, this is a struggle against illegal working. Illegal working in a capitalist system in crisis becomes an instrument, a tool of all the neo-liberal forces to make the world of work more precarious. Yesterday removals to countries of the Third World were denounced. There is a new kind of removal, that is, the continual spread of this form of labour, which costs practically nothing. This is a powerful and fundamental perspective in terms of the capitalist response to the current crisis. In simple terms, it is to subject an ever growing proportion of workers to Third World conditions, in the context of what used to be called the consumer society. Today, these people are the sans-papiers. After that, it will spread to include people on income support, homeless people, and so on. Each section of workers will fall under the steam-roller. It is in such a context in the West that fascist forcs develop. Europe Behind Barbed Wire is also a Europe where fascism has been reborn and is growing. In the past, in the context of an international crisis, of fascism come to power in a strong country like Germany, labour camps were transformed into death camps. If this goes on, what will be the future of these detention centres, of these transit zones? They are dumping people there like cattle, in order to deport them. Beware! It's deportation today, but what will it be tomorrow? In this great regression of civilisation that threatens European countries, notably France, with those who lead the fascist menace sniffing the air, well, the sans-papiers movement is in many respects comparable to the Dreyfus affair. It's now or never, for the democratic forces in the country, to embrace this amazing movement of the most marginalised section of the working class and of society, the sans-papiers, who have no rights. Let there be some new Jauris, some new Zolas, and let there be some trades union and political organisations in the working class that rise up to form a barrier to this fearsome danger of regression in society and civilisation. At the same conference Helmut Dietrich from Berlin said that immigration policies create a 'new social layer of 'illegals' wha are 'super-exploited' and 'may end up in prison in the next raid*Existential fear, systematic harassment,intimidation and violent expulsion have become the daily lot of this underclass.' This treatment, Dietrich said, is being extended to others besides refugees and migrants, including small-time drug dealers, whose movements within German cities are being restricted. One human right which, because it has not been recognised as a right, is not violated by current attempts to enforce immigration controls is the right to cross frontiers(from the outside in). The right to leave countries was proclaimed by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose authors presumably had the Soviet Union and eastern Europe n mind; but nothing was said of the right to enter another country. As Moscow News ironically put it in 1993, 'Russia and the West have swapped roles. An iron curtain has been lowered against the majority of those who wish to enter Europe.' The Berlin Wall is being replaced by high fences, razor wire and increasingly sophisticated electronic devices, on the borders between Mexico and the United States, between the inner and outer countries of Europe, and around the Spanish enclaves in north Africa; people are killed and wounded by entry guards rather than by exit guards. The Universal Declaration also proclaimed people*s rights to move around freely inside their own country. In the current state of opinion it would be considered unthinkable for people from Manchester not to be allowed to travel to Oxford unless they were very rich or skilled, or unless the authorities of Oxford decided that they had been so severely persecuted by the authorities in Manchester that their lives and liberty were in danger there. It is true that the rich inhabitants of north Oxford built a wall across a street to keep out the inhabitants of Cutteslowe council estate. But this was considered shocking, and did not last. Restrictions on immigration from the Commonwealth were also considered unthinkable by most people in the 1950s, and restrictions against aliens were unthinkable in the late nineteenth century. It is time for the idea of international migration to be rescued, and enshrined in international declarations as a normal and natural human right. It is time also to question the assumption that governments and their citizens have the right to exercise control in their own interest over particular bits of land, any more than they have the right to appropriate the air and the sea. Most of the arguments for and against immigration controls are expressed in terms of the interests of nations and their current inhabitants, rather than of the peoples of the world as a whole. It is taken for granted that the former shouldtake precedence. The governments and peoples of the rich countries see nothing immoral about arguing (whether or not this is in fact the case) that immigration controls are necessary to preserve their special privileges. Instead, it is somehow considered immoral for people to cross national frontiers to seek work or even refuge. And governments are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to stop them doing so. It is from the denial of people's rights to travel to and settle in the place of their choice that some of the worst abuses of human rights in Western liberal democracies have sprung.