Migration Without Borders. Essays on the Free Movement of People

Migration without borders

What would happen if border controls were to be suppressed and people granted the right to move freely throughout the world?

The right “to leave” a country, laid down in Article 13 (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has no corresponding right “to enter” a country. This apparent contradiction has produced a publication, edited by two UNESCO programme specialists on international migration.

It attempts to explore the scenario of a world where migration knows no borders. Given the current context of strict border controls and a heightened social and political awareness of the issue, this scenario of a world where each person would be free to move around from one country to another and settle wherever he or she chooses, may appear somewhat utopian. But today’s Utopia could become tomorrow’s reality and this publication attempts to analyse the ethical and economic challenges as well as the social consequences of totally free movement all over the world.

With contributions by Aderanti Adepoju, Rafael Alarcón, Graziano Battistella, Alejandro I. Canales, Jonathan Crush, Han Entzinger, Bimal Ghosh, Nigel Harris, Jan Kunz, Mari Leinonen, Alicia Maguid, Israel Montiel Armas, Sally Peberdy, Mehmet Ugur and Catherine Wihtol de Wenden, this reference work is a mine of new ideas which fuel the debate and contribute to finding new angles for research into fair and balanced migration policies that respect human rights.

This investigation into the free movement of populations constantly reminds us that nowadays access to freedom of movement reflects people’s unequal rights. Although the majority of the world’s population are able to leave their country, only a tiny minority have the right to enter whichever country they choose. Nationals of developed countries and highly qualified people can move around more or less freely, whereas others are dependent on the uncertain granting of visas and residence permits before they can cross a border.

This UNESCO book has received great interest amongst researchers and politicians since its publication in English in 2007. It is now available to a wider audience, having been translated into French, Spanish and Russian. A Chinese version will be forthcoming.

To order the book in English, French or Spanish, please visit UNESCO Publishing.

ISBN 978-92-3-104024-5

The English version can also be ordered at Berghahn Books.

The Russian version is available both in print and in electronic format.

Download the publication in Русский [PDF, 1760 KB].

The book is also available in Chinese. Publisher: Phoenix Publishing & Media Group, Yilin Press. Collation: 341 p. Copyrights: UNESCO, 2007 and Yilin Press 2010 for Chinese translation (this edition has been published by Yilin Press, by arrangement with UNESCO)

Migration Without Borders has received warm reception since its publication. The book has received the 2009 Silver Book Award from the Association of Borderland Studies (ABS). Book Reviews “This anthology on the public policy implications of global migration comprises 13 essays written by internationally renowned social scientists. The authors intentionally violate conventional wisdom by arguing that countries should accept “migration without borders” (MWB). None of the authors ever fully defines the MWB concept, but it appears to mean “the right to move freely throughout the world.” All the essays advocate this view using different theoretical and geographic perspectives. Six theoretical essays present the political, economic, legal, and ethical merits of MWB. They demonstrate that current immigration policies are flawed but provide few new insights. The best material is the seven geographic essays focusing on Asia, Europe, West Africa, Southern Africa, Mexico, North America and South America. Each essay provides a detailed, well-written overview of the historical development and demographic growth of international migration in the region. These regional essays are miniatures masterpieces, and the authors demonstrate encyclopedic knowledge of their subjects. Overall, the book has a higher degree of thematic coherence and development than most anthologies on global migration. Summing up: Highly recommended.” Author: J. Hein, University of Wisconsin. Review published in the August 2008 issue of Choice, a journal specialized in reviews for academic libraries.

“The theoretical and practical range in this collection of essays is impressive, and the reader is left with a greater understanding of the complex dimensions that must be considered when governments try to manage the movement of people.” Jonathan Burkham, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA Population, Space and Place, Vol. 15 Issue 1, p 89-90 (January/February 2009). Published online in Wiley Interscience.

“It certainly makes a very interesting read for anyone who wishes to get hold of a comprehensive exposition of the complex dynamics of migratory trends in the globalised world we live in today. […]This should definitely serve as a core text for anyone involved in policy-making in this area.” Paul W. Chan, School of the Built Environment, Northumbria University, UK. CLR News, 3/2008. Download the review [PDF, 300 KB]

“Pécoud and Guchteneire are to be applauded for taking on the thorny issue of open borders and bringing together a group of highly competent authors to approach this issue in its complexity from a multi-disciplinary background. […] this book offers its reader a thought-provoking journey into a subject that seems to be so politically salient yet, at the same time, is hardly part of current public debate.” Reviewed by Oliver Schmidtke. Journal of Borderlands Studies, Volume 23, No. 3, Fall 2008.

“This long-awaited book, which presents some of the papers from a project of the same title, addresses the highly contested and thorny issue of the politics of migration, or rather considers alternative visions to traditionally protectionist approaches.” Reviewed by Franck Düvell. Journal of International Migration and Integration, (2009) 10:109–111, Springer Netherlands. Download the review [Full article in PDF only available to members]




Antoine Pécoud and Paul de Guchteneire




UNESCO Publishing / Berghahn Books

Publication Date


Number of Pages

304 p.


Social Science Studies series




Back to top