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Faculty Workshop Series - Julian Müller

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Speaker: Julian Müller, Political Theory Project, Brown University

Title: In Defense of Commercial Human Smuggling

Abstract: In the wake of the European refugee crisis, not one day passes by, without a high ranking politician condemning commercial human smuggling. The goal of this paper is to discuss the morality of commercial human smuggling. The first part of the paper discusses whether (commercial) human smuggling is inherently wrong. In particular, I want to analyze four properties that commercial human smuggling is usually identified with that might explain the apparent moral wrongness of commercial human smuggling: violation of immigration laws, the commercial aspect, exploitation and a risk to life. My analysis, however, will conclude that – contrary to what many believe – there is nothing inherently wrong with human smuggling. The second part asks whether the practice of commercial human smuggling in Europe can be morally condemned for contingent reasons. Here, I will make an argument that relies on two claims: (a) that there is a minimal consensus that the destitute and persecuted have a right to apply for sanctuary and (b) that the only way to apply for asylum in the EU is actually by applying from within the EU. Building on these claims, I argue that the current practice of commercial human smuggling is morally permissible, since it is the only viable option for the destitute to secure their right of applying for sanctuary. In the third part, I will discuss some of the real world ramifications of my results. In particular, I will make the argument that by respecting the right to apply for sanctuary the European Union could dry up the practice of morally permissible commercial human smuggling and in that (re)-legitimize its border protection measures.


The workshop will be held in Hariri 230, and will begin at 12:00 and continue until 1:30. Lunch will be served. All are welcome. Please inform the director of the institute, Michael Douma (, if you plan to attend.

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Friday, April 7, 2017 - 12:00pm
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