From the viewpoint of human rights:

a. UN conventions

The UN cites the following principles in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:
recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
these rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person,
the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights

b. In Particular with regard to migrants:

On December 18, 1990, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
The convention aims to “contribute to the harmonization of the attitudes of States through the acceptance of basic principles concerning the treatment of migrant workers and members of their families” by requiring states to adhere to basic human rights standards in their dealings with authorized and unauthorized migrants, including freedom of religion and freedom from arbitrary arrest or imprisonment. It seeks to reduce irregular migration and trafficking and to ensure equal rights for migrants…

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states in Article 14 – Prohibition of discrimination:
The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

In the Dutch constitution and King Willem-Alexander’s speech upon his coronation, respect and observance of human rights and the basic tenet of equality among the members of the human family are upheld.

According to the Dutch constitution in Chapter 1, Article 1:
“All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race, or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.”

In the speech of King Willem-Alexander at his coronation:
“For centuries, our greatest strengths have been our inventiveness, our diligence and our openness. With such qualities, we have a great deal to offer the world.

“…However great our diversity, however different our beliefs or dreams, and however varied our backgrounds, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands everyone can have a voice and can contribute to society on an equal footing.

“I swear that I shall defend and preserve the independence and the territory of the Kingdom to the best of My ability; that I shall protect the freedoms and rights of all its citizens and residents, and shall employ all means placed at My disposal by the law to support and promote the Kingdom’s welfare, as is incumbent upon a good and faithful King.”

From the viewpoint of economics:

Migration or the movement of people across frontiers and borders is as old as Adam and Eve. In our world there are 2 main forces that drive migration: poverty and persecution/wars.

It is natural for people to move from economically depressed areas to economically dynamic ones. This is true for people who move across international borders as well as within countries from the poor areas to the rich areas.

In our present world where a handful of countries hold a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth while the vast majority are poor, this grossly uneven distribution of wealth drives people from the poor countries to seek greener pastures in the rich countries. (It is to be noted here that these handful of wealthy countries were the former colonizers who profited greatly from their extraction of the wealth from the countries they colonized in Asia, Africa and Latin America.)

No amount of policing or building of walls can prevent people from taking the leap and even at the risk of their lives.

It will not only not stop the flow of people, but as in the case of the Prohibition in the US or the crackdown on drugs, it results in worse consequences. Criminal gangs take over the business of human trafficking and the attendant dire consequences. The status of irregularity also makes people highly vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous businessmen.

Pointing to the futility of attempts to keep out the poor and persecuted, Philip Stephens of the Financial Times says:
“None of this will work. Prohibition has already put migration into the hands of criminal gangs. The traffic in human misery now vies with the drugs trade as a source of billions for those who make their fortunes from the dark side of globalization. Europe’s borders will always be porous. Knowledge of the drugs networks should have taught governments long ago that as long as there is demand there will be supply.”

At a meeting of the interior ministers of the EU in July 2000, it was pointed out that the
EU would need to admit 50-70 million immigrants by 2050 to take up vacant jobs. It was further said that the time had come to recognize that the zero immigration policies of the previous 25 years were not working and irrelevant to the EU’s economic and
demographic conditions. The 25 years of zero immigration policy had harmed the European economy and into the bargain led to a rise in the number of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, accompanied by smuggling and trafficking in human beings.

In 2003, a report of a European commission estimated that the number of people of working age would decline by 40 million from 243 to 203 million, while the number of people aged over 65 was set to rise by 60 percent to 103 million. It would put existing pension schemes under severe strain. The report also pointed to the low birth rates in many European countries resulting in population declines.

The report therefore argued that the EU needed net migration of 13.5 million people a year to stop the proportion of working-age people to pensioners from falling. The immigration needed by the EU to stabilize its old-age dependency ratio would bring its population to 1.2 billion by 2050.

Without immigration, the population in the EU would drop from 450 million in 2004 to 400 million in 2050.

In response to this, the EU adopted certain policies.

“Greater mobility brings with it opportunities and challenges. A balanced, comprehensive and common migration policy will help the EU to seize these opportunities while tackling the challenges head-on. This policy – currently under development – is built upon solidarity and responsibility. It will have the added advantage of making a valuable contribution to the EU’s economic development and performance in the long term.

Addressing the issue of irregular migration, the EU says:
“A sustainable and credible policy approach to the management of migration also requires addressing the issue of irregular migration.

“A humane and effective return policy — in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and based on the principle of giving preference to voluntary return — is essential to a comprehensive and sustainable migration policy.

An effective and humane return policy is a necessary part of a comprehensive migration policy and does not contradict a more open migration policy.

Although the number of EU States having transposed the Directive is far from satisfactory, the Return Directive confers rights on migrants that may be invoked in proceedings before national courts. The rights are applicable at national level regardless of whether an EU State has transposed the legislation. The key features of the Directive include:
the requirement for a fair and transparent procedure for decisions on the return of irregular migrants
an obligation on EU States to either return irregular migrants or to grant them legal status, thus avoiding situations of “legal limbo”
promotion of the principle of voluntary departure by establishing a general rule that a “period for voluntary departure” should normally be granted
provision for persons residing irregularly of a minimum set of basic rights pending their removal, including access to basic health care and education for children
a limit on the use of coercive measures in connection with the removal of persons, and ensuring that such measures are not excessive or disproportionate
providing for an entry ban valid throughout the EU for migrants returned by an EU State
limiting the use of detention, binding it to the principle of proportionality and establishing minimum safeguards for detainees.
A key principle of the directive states that EU member states cannot adopt harsher rules than the ones laid out in the directive. However, they may retain more liberal rules or adopt new ones of a more permissive nature.

The purported aim of the EU in all this is to establish a common discipline for all member states to either expel every illegally resident migrant or grant him/her a definite legal status.

Here, two points must be noted. One, procedures must be in accordance with the pertinent human rights conventions. Two, EU member states have two options: return of irregular migrants or grant legal status to avoid situation of “legal limbo”.

Reacting to the EU Return Directive:
Sverker Rudeberg, the chairman of the immigration working group at European employers’ organization BusinessEurope, said the EU should send a clear signal to third countries that it is not xenophobic. He argued that legal immigration possibilities can help fight illegal immigration, which is what follows when the demands of the local labour market cannot be met legally. But “businesses prefer not to have undocumented migrants,” Rudeberg said. “To prosper in the future, we must have an adequate system to manage migration,”, expressing his disappointment that there was still no framework for legal immigration at European level.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)’s confederal secretary, Catalene Passchier, highlighted the responsibility of governments who, according to her, often exploit dormant fears of migrant workers for populist policies. She said it is thus important for trade unions to take a clear position: “We don’t believe in closed borders. We don’t believe that closing borders protects workers.”

Prof. Ewald Engelen of UVA points to the economic benefits of an open immigration policy:
“In the Netherlands, what was once influentially diagnosed as a ˜multicultural failure” has become a miracle of socio-economic integration a mere decade later. While the view predominates that migration has cost Dutch society more than it contributes and that the Netherlands should close its borders to newcomers, demographic trends point in the opposite direction “ a policy of closed borders is one that the Netherlands cannot afford.

“…Demographic trends do not grant the Dutch that “luxury”. Just as “graying” is forcing the Netherlands to earn more of its GDP outside Europe, so future workers in the rapidly growing sectors of “cure, care, fun and grunt” (health and social care, tourism and the service industry) will have to come from population surpluses outside the European Union.

The European Union will not be able to provide for its future labour demands endogenously. One look at UN demographic projections suffices to show that within 15 years a scramble for African, Indonesian and Middle Eastern population surpluses will kick off. If the Dutch want to maintain their current level of wellbeing they will have to think of how to become attractive to immigrants, even to Islamic immigrants. This calls for smart experiments with circular labour migration, new routes for migrating entrepreneurs and de-linking the labour market and the welfare state to allow newcomers to “earn” full Dutch citizenship through economic and social contributions.

“The Dutch government must, therefore, do its utmost to enhance the economic integration of current migrants and to attract the most ambitious migrants through smart labour migration policies.

“It is crucial that we learn to see the miracle within the drama: that, despite the dominance of a culturalist, Islamophobic frame that politicises minor cultural differences, non-Western immigrants in the Netherlands have in fact made impressive socioeconomic progress. Paul Scheffer’s influential diagnosis of “multicultural failure” of 2000 has become a miracle of socio-economic integration a mere decade later. This requires above all a different appreciation of migrants. Instead of perceiving them as parasites of the welfare state, the Dutch have to learn to see them as global citizens who vote with their feet, deciding to migrate to one country and not to another is an extraordinary compliment. We must do this not because we are morally obliged to do so (although we are), but because it simply makes economic sense.”


a. This is essentially what the Terugkeer beleid amounts to with its disproportionate punishments such as the high fine and long period of detention in violation of the principle of proportionality that the EU Return Directive ostensibly upholds.
b. There is also the undue stress on police methods and a negative approach as opposed to leaning on the side of humanitarian considerations that pervade many UN conventions that put a stress on human rights.
a. Legalization is one way of righting the historical injustices of colonization and addressing the gross inequality that presently exists between countries across the globe. Legalization creates better conditions for the observance of human rights.
b. It makes more economic sense. It is a win-win situation for both migrants and host people.