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The ethics of migrant welfare

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International migration poses a dilemma for capitalist welfare states. This paper considers the ethical dimensions of that dilemma. It begins by addressing two questions associated with the provision of social rights for migrants: first, the extent to which differential forms of social citizenship may be associated with processes of civic stratification; second, the ambiguous nature of the economic, social and cultural rights components of the international human rights framework. It then proceeds to discuss, on the one hand, existing attempts to classify or taxonomise different kinds of immigration/incorporation and welfare regime and, on the other, the different ways in which migrants may be socially constructed. Building on this analysis the paper develops an alternative taxonomy that is concerned with the different ethical premises from which the social rights of migrants may be constructed or justified. The paper concludes by applying the ideal of ‘Migration without Borders’ as a means to critique existing constructions of social rights.

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