Last Updated on March 6, 2021 by Filip Poutintsev
Schengen Agreement, signed on 14th June 1985, is one of the most notable agreements that enforces open border amongst members of the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes nations such as Italy, France, and Germany.
Any person who holds a Schengen visa is free to travel without border checks at the signatories’ common border. However, it is also important to notice that in 2016, border controls were reintroduced in seven Schengen nations (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Poland, and Sweden) as a response to the migrant crisis and terror attacks.
What Would an Open Border World Look Like?
Say A and B are two nations that allow the migration of people and/or goods with no restrictions or control. Now, let’s consider and analyze the following two scenarios:
a) A person from an economically poor background, residing in country A, intends to travel to B, where he/she could uplift their living standard;
b) A person who, unknown to the jurisdiction of nation A, commits drug trafficking and intends to travel to B.
Intuitively, we can infer that the person in scenario ‘a’ will have their living standard improved while also contributing to the economy of the nation B positively. However, this might not necessarily be true for the person in scenario ‘b’ as he/she can still continue getting involved in drug trafficking in nation B, and across two nations.
Although a and b are hypothetical scenarios, they are significant when it comes to political discourse around the idea of open borders.
Today, the discourse around the open border has become more political and crucial than ever as a way to address the humanitarian crisis revolving around thousands of humans seeking refuge, and the projected threat that climate crisis could bring if the borders are not opened.
According to Associated Press, the number of migrants who have died or gone missing since 2014 is approximately 60,000 worldwide. Restrictions on transit and, consequently, taking alternatives such as boarding on ships captained by smugglers, and traversing through dangerous rivers is claimed to be few of the major reason for this data.
Similarly, according to Todd Miller (author of the book, Storming the Wall, which traces the relationship between climate change and border), with places becoming uninhabitable as a consequence of climate crisis, free movement becomes more imperative as the projected displacement of people across the globe accelerates.
While there are environmental, humanitarian, ethical and economical argument that are taken into consideration in the open border discourse, in this article, we will take a glance into what an open border world would look like if it becomes a reality.
Advantages of Open Border
1. Dispersion and Opportunity
One of the many fear or dissatisfaction shown by the opponents of open border is that the incoming migrants, who are looking to uplift their living standards, would consume a significant amount of jobs while working in low wages and benefitting the capitalist business or industries.
However, the open borders around the globe would give immigrants more destinations to travel to and significantly disperse around the world giving the receiving nations less burden on the urgency of domestic development in job markets.
Simultaneously, this would also make families easier to improve their lifestyle and livelihood. Children could be exposed to school life; families would have access to medical care they need; a better job; and other facilities that aren’t available in their countries.
2. Eliminates the Cost of Border Control
Border control invites the cost of maintaining proper check around the border by employing trained personnel and installing cameras, and sensors. These activities require a significant amount of money to be spent.
The United States spends over $18 billion per year to enforce immigration laws around its border with Mexico, and Canada. However, open borders would rather eliminate this cost and these amounts could be put in other activities such as healthcare and education since there would no longer be a need for a wall or other enforcements.
3. Economical Boost
Open border does not only benefit the immigrant but also the host nation. Immigrants, generally, consist of a group of people who are ready to do labor in order to improve their livelihood.
Consequently, this increases the workforce of the host nation and also contributes to the economic boost by paying taxes and investing in the job market. On top of this, it is also estimated that open borders would see global GDP rocket by 67-157%.
4. Reduce the Immigrant Exploitation Issues
Labor exploitation is one of the most noticeable issues when it comes to addressing the life of an immigrant. Illegal immigration routes people to be a part of a vulnerable population group where they can get exploited by not getting the income they deserve on time, and being a victim of physical abuse.
However, having an open border policy would eliminate many of these issues as they can report these forms of exploitation to the respective authority without being in a vulnerable position.
5. Cultural Significance
Open border allows incoming people from various nations who follow different lifestyles and cultures. Consequently, this would expose people to numerous ways of living and culture, which could significantly boost the morale.
Disadvantages of Open Borders
1. Easy Way Out
It threatens to put a strain on communities around the world. As Gina Miller (businesswoman and transparency activist) shared the situation when half the population of Guyana left when the country was in turmoil, it is important to think how this led to the nation in strain as they lacked people who were willing to take risks and work with resilience to rebuild their nation. So, open border which allows freedom of movement would open a way through which people can get away with problems in their nation and move to another nation.
2. Illegal Trading
Open border not only ensures freedom of movement but also of goods. Due to the lack of checkpoints around the border, it becomes easier for people who trade items illegally across nations which not only include drugs but also humans. Similarly, individuals can import goods from other nations, evading the taxes they would be paying if there were restrictions/controls around the border.
3. Problems of Over Population
Better opportunities are more prevalent in developed nations. Consequently, these developed nations become a primary target for immigration opportunities if open border policy is implemented.
One such examples is when 2.2 million people sought asylum throughout Europe whose consequences were xenophobia and populism which still impacts the society.
To recapitulate, the world of open border looks very promising in terms of opportunities, addressing the humanitarian crisis around seeking refuge and improving the living standard.
However, one cannot overlook its other side which involves issues arising from overpopulation including wages plummeting, and activities such as illegal trading which is a crime.