Freedom of movement for everyone!
Future workshop on migration
By Miriam Gutekunst and Matthias Schmelzer
How do we want to shape migration in the future and what role do current demarcations play in this? This question was explored by 16 thought leaders from social movements, politics and science in the framework of our project “Future for all – fair. ecological. feasible”. This vision has emerged from the joint – sometimes controversial – discussion.
In the year 2048, there are: Freedom of movement, access to and participation in social resources and welcome centers – public institutions that do not sanction mobility, but make it easier for people to arrive in new places.
In 2048 there are no more: border controls, deportations and immigration authorities, racism and other forms of exclusion.
Freedom of movement
In 2048 we live in a world in which all people can move freely, regardless of their origin and national borders. Living standards have converged worldwide – ways of life of the past (especially in the global north) that could only be realized at the expense of both, others and the world around us, have disappeared in favour of simpler, cooperative but also solidarity-based ways of living. Those who did not have enough in the past now have a share in the wealth of society. This does not mean that the way of life is the same everywhere, on the contrary: there are a variety of different coexisting social designs concerning living, eating, loving, producing together, and managing institutions.
In principle, everyone has the same rights everywhere, as it was the case in 2019 in some solidarity-based cities – such as Palermo. This includes not only political, social and economic rights, but also the right to freedom of movement. Visa regulations – if they still exist – are the same for everyone. All passports – if they still exist – are worth the same, everyone can travel without restrictive controls. There is no longer any need for escape aid, since travel is self-determined for everyone. Nobody has been deported for a long time, and the fact that there were times when people died because of the border in the Mediterranean are considered a tragedy of the past that has long been overcome. While the borders are open to people, communities around the world have placed their economic concerns under democratic control. Democratic guidelines and restrictions have been developed for international capital flows, but also for some goods and services.
In the past, closed borders and unequal incomes were a central cause of one-way migration movements – this has changed fundamentally with harmonized living standards and freedom of movement for everyone. As was common in many areas before colonialism and nation states, there is now much more circular migration. However, this vision of global freedom of movement is accompanied by further changes from the local to the global level.
Participation for all
In our vision of a “future for all” there should be so-called “welcome centres” everywhere. These are transformed citizens’ offices with community cafés where everyone can meet. Places where people can gather and learn from each other, where, for instance, host families and host neighbourhoods can be arranged, and where first overnight accommodation is available. Everything that is necessary for a good life – such as housing, education and health care – should no longer be tied to a citizenship, but should be made available to everyone who settles in one place. The recognition of diversity and difference is the fundamental basis for living together. There is room for everyone; for learning languages, for exchange and discussion about ideas of a “good” life, for education and knowledge production. Everyone learns and teaches.
The societies are organized through democratic bodies, in which the diversity of society is represented. Anyone who lives in one place can vote and participate fully in these committees.
All people shape their lives – including their economic life – in a self-determined and democratic way. There are many ways for everyone to participate: in the company, as consumers, as those affected by economic decisions. People can have a say through neighbourhood councils and through cooperatives in which they work; municipalities decide on the distribution of housing; there is no gender or racist division of labour. Empowering and unpleasant activities are largely equally distributed among all. Everyone works less, has time for exchange and co-determination. Instead of armed police, there are democratically controlled and rotating security groups and conflict and mediation centres specialising in anti-discrimination, which provide support in dealing with conflicts and problems.
Society of the Many
Through this new social order, migration is no longer seen as a problem, but as normality. Everyone is convinced that every person is equally worthy, regardless of gender, skin colour or origin. A world without borders also means that people overcome the borders in their minds and thus all stereotypes and prejudices, all racism, sexism, homophobia and trans-hostilities, exclusion of people with disabilities, classism, and other forms of exclusion. The emergence of discrimination, exclusion and domination is actively countered throughout society – in all institutions, in interpersonal encounters and in the streets and squares.
Nobody is put into tight drawers with questions like: “Where do you come from?” (Even if there is a lot of curiosity and interest in intensive exchange and getting to know each other), or: “Do you sell grass?” Stereotypes and prejudices are recognized and dealt with as such. Already at school, awareness of intersectionality and the responsibility that everyone can live an everyday life without discrimination and exclusion are taught. History and stories are told and shaped equally by everyone. In all public institutions as well as in the social field, people have acquired intercultural skills as a matter of course. The diversity of perspectives is experienced as an enrichment. In the media, which are organized in a self-organized and collective way, migration is discussed as positive and valuable. Even if the focus is on the communities and neighbourhoods in which people are rooted and live, global developments and the solidarity of all are much more of a concern. Information is freely accessible to everyone, barriers to access such as complicated language and the focus on written information are actively dismantled. Culture, dance, music and theatre are also not produced and controlled by a small elite, but by everyone – in the form of a coexistence of different networked cultures with a lot of exchange. There is no longer any segregation: all residential units and neighbourhoods are open to everyone; business and work are designed by everyone. At the (few) remaining airports, there are no longer any discriminatory controls for different people. Since everyone works less and care activities are fairly distributed between everyone, there is plenty of time for exchange, mutual support and political engagement.
Fight for freedom of movement
Freedom of movement has been fought for over decades. The summer of migration to Europe in 2015 had already shown how migrants, together with people who show solidarity with them, were able to undermine the European border regime as a social movement. Despite social escalation in the 2020s, these successes were built on:
The central impetus came from the global south, where social mobilizations brought about the collapse of the externalization policy of the global north and whereupon freedom of movement was realized as early as 2028 within the framework of the African Union. The developing anti-colonial movements in North African countries brought governments to power, which also demand freedom of movement from and to Europe – Tunisia, for example, introduced a visa fee of EUR 100 for EU citizens to exert pressure.
A lot also shifted in the discourse – the border was increasingly discussed as a problem, escape helpers were awarded medals of merit, climate debt was recognized and a culture of solidarity became stronger.
A tipping point was that the EU declared sea rescue as a public task. As a result, the EU member states were sued for their border policy and held accountable. Transnational social movements played a central role, because over the years a network of infrastructures for freedom of movement from below could be built – with solidarity-based cities, sea rescue, social centres and self-organized safe escape routes. The network of cities of solidarity at the end of the 2020s comprised more than half of all larger cities in Europe and in many countries of origin. Practices were established that guaranteed rights and participation for everyone on the spot. For instance, anonymous city cards that gave access to public services, health and participation, were handed out and institutions did no longer cooperate with deportation authorities. Furthermore, cooperative infrastructures for “welcome centres” embedded in the local economy were built, asylum for citizens to prevent deportations were introduced as well as general anti-racist and antisexist policies at all levels.
Again and again there were larger, transnational mass mobilizations in which the fight against deportation and causes of flight as well as the right to freedom of movement were linked. After a second and even longer “Summer of Migration” enabled freedom of movement in Europe in 2021, migrant movements broke through the US-Mexico border in 2024 and established a permanent route that was no longer closed afterwards. Boycott campaigns and more and more direct actions against deportation airlines created so much pressure that all private airlines stopped them. Instead, a number of solidarity-based transport companies emerged that specialized in providing legal leeway for safe transport routes – also by plane
Refugees in their struggles against white supremacy and right-wing populism also increasingly raised their voices, addressing racism, paternalism and the white privileges within the support networks – which expanded into a more general, society-wide reflection of critical whiteness and made more and more people of colour visible in these struggles.
Media practicing emancipatory and critical reporting and engaging their editorial offices in a democratic and diverse manner have become increasingly popular. Instead of formerly only a having a marginal role, they now took over a leading role. Journalists and writers of colour and / or with a history of migration were particularly encouraged to break up and re-tell the white Eurocentric reporting and historiography.
Vision as a break
Some of the participants in the future workshop are involved in their political work in the existential struggles of refugees for their right to stay. In addition to all the support work and the fight against deportations, which are currently more necessary than ever in Germany, there is little time left to vision for a better society. Taking the time and space to think about what we are actually working towards, what our political dreams and goals are, was felt by most to be a great privilege. At the same time, it is also a necessity to drive greater transformations, to combat the EU’s exclusionary and deadly migration policy and to work towards a world in which freedom of movement applies to everyone.
Miriam Gutekunst works at the University of Munich and actively engages with kritnet.
Matthias Schmelzer works at Konzeptwerk Neue Ökonomie.