President Higgins, migration and borders

We need pragmatism, not wistful visions of a borderless future

Sir, – It is difficult to understand why the President of Ireland should publicly raise questions as to the viability and, indeed, the legitimacy of international borders, including presumably our own (“Higgins questions future of borders to stop migrants”, News, January 28th).

This is a fundamental but surely political question involving control of the population, access to employment and the maintenance of internal security.

Matters for governments alone to determine.

Furthermore, it appears that our President is highly critical of all the main players involved in the huge challenges facing the world in relation to mass migration, including the World Bank, the IMF, the UN and, it seems, our own Government.


It is worth pointing out that the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UN Migration Agency, in a 2017 study, described state sovereignty as the “bedrock of today’s international system” and that “border control is seen as a quintessential exercise of sovereignty”.

While these principles provide the essential starting point, most countries have accepted limitations on their sovereign authority for the common good, the main example, in this context, being the 1951 Refugee Convention.

The international consensus now appears to be that countries should take immediate steps to expand the pathways to orderly, safe and regular migration and not simply to eliminate borders, an approach that the Irish Government has generally supported.

The President has made these comments at a time when there are 11,500 people homeless in Ireland, including 3,500 children.

He chose not to take the opportunity point out that Ireland has taken in more Ukrainian refugees per capita than most countries in the world, people seeking international protection are sleeping in our streets, and Ireland has seen a rise in asylum applicants in the order of 470 per cent.

To blithely describe these complex problems as a result of “excessive reliance on the market” might tempt some of us to suggest that our President’s next step, on his return, might be to insist that the Government open the doors and the extensive State-owned grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin to the unfortunate people who cannot find a home. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 12.

A chara, – The statement by President Higgins that climate change will do away with national borders is utopian naivety.

A more accurate picture of the future is one in which climate change pushes further migration into Europe over the coming decades and triggers a reactionary backlash that will drive the rise of the far-right.

Avoiding this future requires measured pragmatism, not wistful visions of a borderless future. – Yours, etc,


Santo Domingo,

Dominican Republic.