Debating the Legitimacy of Borders: How the Inclusion and Exclusion of Migrants and Refugees is Justified Across the World

The project aims to understand how state borders are legitimized across different countries by comparing how such legitimacy is publicly debated. The liberal script offers conflicting views on the topic. It grants nation states the right to control their borders in the name of self-determination while also recognizing an individual's rights against arbitrary exclusion. Increasing global migration and refugee flows in recent years have highlighted this tension. 

To understand how borders are legitimized, the project analyzes public contestations of the liberal border script – which, for instance, distinguishes between 'migrants' and 'refugees'. What arguments are mobilized to justify the inclusion/exclusion of migrants and refugees? Which actors dominate the public discourse regarding borders and how do they achieve legitimacy? The project analyzes public debates about the legitimacy of borders in three countries:

1. United Kingdom

The border script of this Northern European country is recently being contested by inside challengers, represented by the decision to leave the EU.

2. Singapore

This Southeast Asian country has one of the largest immigrant stocks in the world and a liberal policy toward skilled immigrants, yet it accords poor legal status to low-skilled workers and accepts no refugees.

3. Mexico

This North-American country features a border script in transition.Its historically liberal migration policy is being challenged by the country's increased role as transit country for large numbers of migrants from Central and South America heading to the United States.