May 14, 2020

Beyond the state: the moral nexus between corporations and refugees

abstract background

Benedikt Buechel’s paper Beyond the State: The Moral Nexus between Corporations and Refugees was accepted for publication in Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. 


A common assumption within the migration ethics literature is that it is only states that have the power to admit foreigners to their territory. However, this assumption misses something important. While it is true that it is states that have the ultimate power to admit, other actors can possess a derivative power from the laws that states put in place. By establishing a system of work visas, for instance, states lend private corporations, and other employers, the power to nominate foreigners for admission by making job offers. For many foreigners, a job offer is what they require to start a new life in a new country. The question then arises how corporations should use this derivative power? One might assume that they should use it as they typically do: to pursue their business interests and by doing so (we hope) benefit their stakeholders including the state and its citizens. However, could there not be other reasons, besides profit seeking, to offer refugees a visa-conferring job? If hiring refugees does not greatly harm their business, it is arguable that corporations could be obliged to use their derivative power to do so on humanitarian grounds. Moreover, some corporations also seem to be obliged to use this power on grounds of corrective justice. This paper advances these possibilities. It has three sections. First, I will look at how much discretion corporations have in terms of employment and migration laws in some European countries. Second, I will present an argument for why corporations are morally permitted to facilitate admission for refugees by offering them a visa-conferring job. In the final section, I will then defend a stronger claim, namely that corporations are possibly obliged to do so on humanitarian grounds or on grounds of corrective justice.