All posts by Michelangelo Landgrave

Michelangelo Landgrave is an economics graduate student at California State University, Long Beach.

Open Borders Day Idea #2: Write a Blog Post

Open Borders Day in on March 16th and several events are being planned to commemorate the date. Readers may wish to join in, but may not have the time or resources to host an event. One thing all readers can do is write a blog post about OB day. is read by a large cross section of readers from all sorts of backgrounds. This means that if were to blog on OB day our collective posts would reach a wide audience. Even a short tweet would go a long way of promoting OB day.

Posts could be a short message informing friends and family that it is OB day and directing them to learn more about OB on the site, attend a nearby event, or sign the OB manifesto.

If you have the time to spare you might wish to elaborate on why you support open borders. Here are samples of previous OB day related blog posts.

Open Borders Day Event Ideas #1: Host a Movie/TV Screening

Open Borders Day in on March 16th and several events are being planned to commemorate the date. Readers may wish to join in by hosting their own event, but are unsure about they can do. One cheap and easy option is to host a movie/TV screening at your home.

I’ve previously discussed movies with migration themes and there is an nearly endless list of similar movies that you can find with a quite google search. I recommend Instructions Not Includeda film that explores the life of an illegal alien trying to raise his daughter in Los Angeles. Although the film points out the daily plight of illegal aliens, it never comes off as preachy.

For those who do not have the time to screen an entire film the Simpsons, South Park, and King of the Hill all have episodes dealing with migration topics. Despite my personal love for the Simpsons, I think the King of the Hill handles the migration topic best by having Hank, its main character, deal with an identity issue upon discovering that he is not a ‘native’ Texan.

The great thing about hosting a screening is that it does not require much cost to you, many movies are available on netflix or for purchase and popcorn isn’t expensive. Nor does watching a film require much on part of your guests. Guests don’t have to go over any reading lists prior to attending your event. Since the cost of participation is low guests with families,  who might find it hard to convince their spouses or children to attend a reading of academic papers regarding the impact of migrants on native wages, can attend as well.

Open Borders Day Events

Since 2014 we have commemorated Open Borders Day on the anniversary of the website’s launch on March 16th 2012. The day serves to encourage discussion about open borders. This year several events are being planned to coincide with Open Borders day including a debate between Bryan Caplan and Mark Krikorian in DC, a public forum at Harvard, and more. More information can be found here.

If you wish to organize your own event you are encouraged to contact Fabio Rojas who is managing the calendar. Readers are also encouraged to submit Op-Eds to their local newspapers to promote Open Borders Day.

Although we extend best wishes and thanks towards the organizers of these events, all events are independent of

Further Reading: Site History
2015 Open Borders Day Round Up
2014 Open Borders Day Round Up

The Flawed Asylum Policy of the European Union


This is a guest post by Julie Putseys. Julie has a bachelor’s degree in History and master’s degrees in Comparative and International Politics and International relations of the Middle East. She works as a freelance journalist in Belgium.

The war in Syria has brought us one of the worst refugee crises our world has ever known. While Syria is terrorized by a repressive government on the one hand, and radical groups like ISIS on the other, the conflict has resulted in a death toll of around 200,000 and a refugee flow of about 4 million.

Except for the actions of Angela Merkel, and a few countries like Sweden, the European Union has shown very little empathy towards the Syrians. Instead of offering asylum to the refugees to prevent an aggravation of the crisis, we’ve largely kept our borders closed and our eyes shut. Yet not that long ago, we’ve been through this ourselves: the two World Wars, which both started in Europe, brought forward the largest refugee movements in the 20th century. You’d think that the European Union – especially as it presents itself as a so-called ‘normative power’ – would take its asylum policy seriously. This is not the case.

Instead, the European Union has undermined its international obligation to give asylum to refugees, laid out in the 1951 Refugee Convention, herein after referred to as the Geneva Convention. Perhaps out of fear to lower our living standards or to damage our economy, our leaders have decided to draft legislation that shifts asylum responsibilities to countries outside Europe.

‘You saw them first!’

Take the ‘Safe Third Country’-concept for example, which is applied in several European member states. The principle is as follows: when an asylum seeker flees from an unsafe country, consequently passes a safe country and then reaches his final destination, he should have applied for asylum in the first safe country he’s been to. According to this concept, neighboring countries of conflict zones are basically screwed. According to this concept, it is fair that Turkey currently hosts 2 million Syrian refugees, Jordan 1.5 million and Lebanon around one million.

Another principle which is applied in Europe is the ‘First country of Asylum’-principle, which states that someone who has been granted asylum in one country, shouldn’t apply for asylum in another. This is more problematic than it sounds, because sometimes refugees don’t get a choice where to apply in the first place. In the recent EU resettlement plan, for instance, in which the EU decides on how many asylum seekers each member state should take in, the asylum seekers get no say in their designated country. So, they could be fluent in Polish yet be obliged to apply for asylum in France. Or, they could have family in France, yet be obliged to apply for asylum in Poland. If they still try to apply in a different country they are fined, detained and afterwards sent back. However, taking into account the preferred countries of the asylum seekers would go a long way in helping them integrate in society.

EU Resettlement Plan

Speaking of the EU resettlement plan, did you know we have only decided on approximately  half of asylum seekers who made their way into our fortress? Indeed, we’ve decided the fates of 66,000 asylum seekers in Greece and Italy, but 54,000 more are in Hungary. The Hungarian government doesn’t want to be considered as a ‘frontline state’ and thus we are to first transport them to Greece or Italy before deciding on their fate in a second resettlement plan. And did you also know that it isn’t certain yet that the 66,000 of the current resettlement plan will effectively be given asylum? Of the thousands of asylum seekers in Greece and Italy, a selection is made of those who are most likely to receive asylum. This means, only the people from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea are chosen. But even then, their application can still be denied in the countries they end up in.

One of the important principles of the Geneva Convention is the Freedom of movement. Refugees fleeing war or persecution should be able to enter a safe country to apply for asylum, without visa and even without identification. In theory, the EU subscribes to that principle, but in reality transport carriers don’t allow passenger who don’t have any valid travel documents. According to the EU Directive 2001/51/EC transport carriers would have to pay for the return flight of asylum seekers whose application proved unsuccessful. Unless these transport carriers have a crystal ball, this policy doesn’t make any sense. This is why refugees pay 5000 Euro for a dangerous boat ride in the  Mediterranean Sea instead of paying for a much cheaper plane ticket.

For a while now, European leaders have been discussing extraterritorial processing of asylum claims, ‘hot spots’ at the borders of the European Union. As a positive point, this would prevent asylum seekers from making life-threatening trips to reach Europe. However, which country would sign up to host such a center? It could pose significant stress to the countries that host it. Not just due to the large amount of asylum seekers, but also because many of them, whose application has been turned down, might decide to stay. Of course, the European Union would come up with significant payment to help these countries, but is it right to burden another country just because we can pay for it? It’s kind of like paying our way out of our international obligations, is it not?

Treatment of asylum seekers and refugees

Either way, for now asylum seekers are still admitted in our countries. They get food, water, a roof over their heads, and a few months after the start of their asylum process – generally between four and nine months, depending on the EU state – they can apply for a work permit. This all sounds reasonable, except that some of them end up in a closed detention center. In principle, according to the EU directive 2013/33/EU, asylum seekers can only be detained as a last resort. However, the criteria determining when an asylum seeker can be detained, don’t sound particularly strict. For example, they can be detained when their identity isn’t clear, when they’ve already applied for asylum elsewhere or when they’re a threat to national security or public order. This last one is particularly vague. In theory, asylum seekers can only be detained for a short period of time, but in reality their detention is often extended. In addition, the circumstances in the detention centers are far from ideal. They’re completely secluded from the outside world, often without knowing the reasons for their detention or how long they have to be there. As a consequence, detained asylum seekers sometimes go on a hunger strike, or worse, commit suicide.

If they finally receive asylum, it should be noted that there’s a notable differences between the statuses of ‘refugee’ and ‘war refugee’. A refugee is someone who has flown from persecution; he receives the refugee status. A war refugee, on the other hand, is someone who has flown from war; he receives subsidiary protection. Those who receive the refugee status are good – it’s as if they are full-blown citizens. However, war refugees receive a different treatment. In Belgium, for example, war refugees have to reapply for asylum each year. Only after five years, they can get a permit to stay indefinitely. The same goes for their work permit. They have to reapply for one each year, and even need a special permit if they want to work as an independent contractor. Another disadvantage of this kind of asylum is that they can only make use of the family reunification program after five years, after they’ve received the governments permission to stay indefinitely. The UNHCR has already pointed out that the distinction between the status of ‘refugee’ and ‘war refugee’ is too big. I wonder why this distinction exists at all.

A rise in xenophobic policies

In recent months, despite the magnitude of the refugee crisis, several EU member states opt for a stringent asylum policy. The UK and Denmark opted out of the EU resettlement plan because they thought it was too ambitious. Instead, Denmark decided on just admitting 1000 asylum seekers while the government of the UK has stated it will only admit 20,000 over the next five years. Not particularly spectacular. Another worrying trend in the countries’ policies is the decrease in welfare for asylum seekers or refugees. Denmark and Finland recently decided to cut their welfare payment, while other parliaments, like the Belgian one, are discussing similar laws. In another xenophobic move, Denmark and Belgium decided to place advertisements to discourage asylum seekers to apply. In Eastern European countries, the situation is even worse. The Czech Republic detains its asylum seekers and then asks them financial compensation for it. Finally, Hungary has built a wall to keep asylum seekers out. If one does manage to get in, he can get up to three years of prison.

Compared to the above mentioned xenophobic policies, Angela Merkel almost seems like an angel (never thought I’d say this). She’s opened up the German borders to refugees and freed up 6 billion euros to accommodate them. By the end of 2015, Germany admitted 800,000 refugees or migrants. For this, Merkel was awarded ‘Person of the year’ by TIME magazine.

Rightly so.



Will we migrate to danger?

Back in August I attended a conference on Market Adaptation to Climate Change hosted by Stanford’s Program on Energy and Sustainable Development (PESD) and the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). The conference, as one might guess from the title, was focused primarily on climate change. However I found one paper in particular of great relevance to open borders.

In their working paper, Geography of Development: Evaluating Migration Restrictions and Coastal Flooding, Desmet et al. arrive at two key conclusions:

  • If migration restrictions remain then, in the long run, economic production will shift from the global north towards what is today considered the developing world (i.e. Africa and Asia). This is driven by the long term benefits of close proximity to other people, namely lowered transaction costs, which promote increases in technology and productivity. Consider the San Francisco Bay Area as an example; part of the reason why the region is so productive is because of the high concentration of high-skilled individuals. A computer engineer is several times more productive in the Bay Area, where he can quickly interact with his peers, than if he were working in a sparsely populated town in South Dakota.


  • If migration restrictions are liberalized then individuals will migrate to the global north in pursuit of higher standards of living, but this will ultimately place more individuals in danger of sea level rise. Current developed regions remain high in productivity, with an increase in productivity in a few of the currently developing regions.


Both findings are at odds to how Open Borders: The Case bloggers usually view the future.

One of the strongest cases for open borders is that it is a humanitarian way to promote productivity. Yet in this simulation the currently developing world catches up and overtakes the current developed world in productivity in the long run.  The case for open borders becomes one then not only of providing a short -term humanitarian way to improve the productivity of those in the developing world, but one to preserve the long term economic dominance of the currently developed world. Support for open borders needn’t be based on altruism – even nativists should support open borders in order to preserve the perceived prestige of their country.

Secondly the paper suggests that open borders would actually lead to more people being placed in danger’s path by allowing migration to the highly productive coastal regions. Silicon Valley, New York, and other world cities tend to be prone to flooding. When we’ve discussed climate change we have usually  taken the stance that open borders will alleviate any possible harms. See Nathan and Joel.

I still think that open borders would help address climate change. I do not disagree with Desmet et al. that open borders would lead to greater migration to coastal regions, but I doubt that human beings would allow themselves to drown. High productivity regions that expected to be in danger of being flooded by sea level rises will likely invest in public works (e.g. sea walls) or build on higher ground. Surely there must be countless people working to prevent the San Francisco Bay Area from sea level rises – if not I have just given readers a free start-up firm idea.

As Joel, an OB co-author, has pointed out, per capita infrastructure costs will also decrease as more migrants settle in coastal regions. Most adaptations to climate change, such as seawalls or large scale cooling centers,  become increasingly feasible as the number of people willing to pay increases.

Humanity has never lived in a static world – we’ve constantly been adapting to changes in culture, technology, and climate. It may come to pass that one day we will meet a challenge that we are unable to overcome, but I am generally optimistic about our future.

This paper, as most papers of its type, is highly speculative and for simplicity omits several variables. Nonetheless it serves as a helpful ‘What if?’ scenario.