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Public Seminar Series Michaelmas term 2020

Series convenors: Professor Matthew J Gibney and Professor Tom Scott-Smith

About the seminar

It is not uncommon for states, including many liberal democracies, to deport foreign nationals present on their territories who engage in extremist behaviour. In this seminar, I argue that such extremist deportations are sometimes justified. I identify four important goals that such deportations may serve: (i) protecting the stability of liberal-democratic regimes; (ii) protecting the basic rights and liberties of citizens and (remaining) non-citizen residents; (iii) communicating a state’s liberal-democratic commitments; and (iv) reassuring citizens and non-citizen residents whose basic rights and liberties are being challenged by extremists that the state will safeguard their freedom and equality. I also answer three objections to the practice of deporting non-nationals based on their extremist acts, namely that his practice (I) is vulnerable to political abuse; (II) imposes disproportional costs upon the deported; and (III) produces unfairness towards the societies that must accept them back. I argue that these objections fail to show that such deportations are categorically unjustified, but I do impose various conditions on the moral permissibility of extremist deportations in response to them. I conclude that the practice of deporting extremists is morally justifiable if and only if they have been found guilty by a criminal court of (at least) one of an exhaustive and public list of deportable extremist offences; the costs that are imposed upon the deportee and possible loved ones are proportional to the protective and communicative functions served by such deportations; and fairness towards receiving countries has been ensured.

About the speaker

Rutger Birnie recently defended his PhD thesis on the ethics and politics of deportation at the Department of Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. His research focuses mainly on normative political theory and the regulation of migration and other forms of international mobility. He has recently published in the journal Citizenship Studies on ‘Citizenship, domicile and deportability: who should be exempt from the state’s power to expel?


This seminar will be held via Zoom.

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Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture

The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is held in Trinity term. It is named after Professor Elizabeth Colson, a renowned anthropologist.

Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture

The Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture is named in honour of Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding Director of the Refugee Studies Centre. It is held each year in Michaelmas term.

Public Seminar Series

Each term the RSC holds a series of public seminars, held on Wednesday evenings at Queen Elizabeth House. Click here for details of forthcoming seminars.

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