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Ethical dilemmas in migration and citizenship policies

Characteristics, variations, causes and responses

This workshop analyses ethical dilemmas in policymaking on international migration and citizenship. We define a hard ethical policy dilemma as involving a conflict between morally worthy goals that need to be addressed but cannot be fully resolved through policy responses. We invite papers from social scientists, political theorists, legal scholars, and historians to identify and analyse the characteristics, variations, and causes of migration and citizenship policy dilemmas, and to explore possible responses.

The workshop is situated in the context of the project The Ethics of Migration Policy Dilemmas (short: ‘Dilemmas’), which aims to adopt a bottom-up approach in identifying specific policy dilemmas of central relevance to policymakers and other stakeholders in the field. ‘Dilemmas’ seeks to enter dialogue with policymakers and stakeholders, striving to learn more about the normative challenges they are presented with, and endeavouring to supply theoretically and empirically grounded arguments by scholars of different specialisations to help navigate such challenges. We hope to establish a feedback loop between academic analysis and political practice to improve each through the other. Ultimately, we aim to overcome polarisation in academic and policy debates on migration resulting from actors’ commitment to a particular partisan stance without considering conflicting goals and values.

This workshop is intended to present an opportunity to build on and expand this new research agenda, in particular by placing a stronger focus on ethical dilemmas relating to citizenship, linking these debates to broader questions of migration policy, and by engaging in a critical discussion about the democratic challenges associated with politically resolving (or even just talking about) dilemmas. We aim to explore the possibility of bundling (some of) the papers workshopped at these Joint Sessions in a special journal issue on 'dilemmas.'

Papers should focus on one or multiple of the following research questions:

Why dilemmas?

When and under which conditions does it make sense to approach ethical questions in migration and citizenship policy through the lens of ‘dilemmas?’ Are there situations in which speaking openly about dilemmas can be politically or democratically counterproductive? What are the ethical challenges associated with conducting research about dilemmas and how do actors in the field navigate these difficult choices?

Normative evaluations of ethical policy dilemmas

What are the core ethical dilemmas in migration and citizenship policymaking today, and how should policymakers navigate them? For example, do simultaneous pressures to liberalize citizenship policy but tighten immigration policy lead to dilemmatic policy tensions? How can these tensions be eased? Should citizenship policies be regulated by international norms and be symmetric for immigrants and emigrants or should they remain a core matter of national self-determination and shaped by the particular needs of each state?

Empirical analysis of dilemmas in migration and citizenship policies

How are ethical policy dilemmas dealt with by various actors on the ground (governments, NGOs, international organizations, etc.)? What are their perceptions of the dilemma? What practices or operative guidelines do they adopt to address the dilemma in concrete situations and with what consequences? What factors can explain different approaches towards similar ethical dilemmas in different countries or institutional settings?

Historical analyses

How have policymakers or stakeholders (executives, legislators, community leaders, civil society organisations...) historically tried to resolve perceived ethical dilemmas in, or between, migration and citizenship policy? Are there historical trends in the way dilemmas are conceptualised or approached? How can we learn from historical examples in order to address current ethical dilemmas of migration and citizenship policy?

Dilemmas in the supra-national governance of migration and citizenship

What are the tensions and dilemmas that arise in the transnational governance of international migration? For example, in the context of the EU, what are the tensions between cross-country variations in national institutions (such as national welfare states and labour market regulations) and common EU policymaking on migration and mobility? In the context of global governance of migration and refugee protection, what are the core policy tensions/dilemmas and potential policy responses?


  • Portrait picture of Martin Ruhs

    Martin Ruhs

    Full-time Professor

    Director of Research

    Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

  • Portrait picture of Rainer Baubock

    Rainer Baubock

    Visiting Fellow

    Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

  • Portrait picture of Lukas Schmid

    Lukas Schmid

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Goethe University Frankfurt

  • Portrait picture of Julia Mourao-Permoser

    Julia Mourao-Permoser


    Danube University Krems

Page last updated on 07/12/2023

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