2019 Annual Howard Adelman Lecture “Migration as Decolonization”

Room 1014, Osgoode Hall Law School, Ignat Kaneff Building

Migration as Decolonization

The prevailing doctrine of state sovereignty under international law is that it entails the right to exclude non-nationals, with only limited exceptions. These exceptions do not apply to so-called economic migrants. This presentation draws on the history and legacy of the European colonial project to challenge the right to exclude economic migrants. It argues that certain economic migrants have compelling claims to admission and inclusion. European colonialism entailed the emigration of tens of millions of Europeans and the flow of natural and human resources across the globe, for the benefit of Europe and Europeans. This presentation details how global interconnection and political subordination, initiated over the course of this history, generate a theory of sovereignty that obligates former colonial powers to open their borders to former colonial subjects. Insofar as certain forms of international migration today are responsive to political subordination rooted in colonial and neocolonial structures, a different conceptualization of such migration is necessary: one that treats economic migrants as political agents exercising equality rights when they engage in “decolonial” migration.

E. Tendayi Achiume is Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, and Faculty Director of the UCLA Law Promise Institute for Human Rights. She is also a Research Associate with the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of Witwatersrand. The current focus of her work is the global governance of racism and xenophobia, and the legal and ethical implications of colonialism for contemporary international migration. In November 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed Professor Achiume the UN Special Rappor-teur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Dis-crimination, Xeno-phobia and Related Intolerance, making her the first woman to serve in this role since its creation in 1993.

Co-sponsored by the Nathanson Centre.

Achiume Lecture Poster