The MERCUR Research Project on the ethics of immigration aims at a more precise and adequate understanding of the (universal) right to freedom of movement. Who may, and under what conditions, be allowed in or turned away? This question is not only philosophically important, it is also at the center of current political and social controversies. To answer this question, it is necessary to find out, for example, whether the strength and the limits of the right to freedom of movement depend on the reasons for migration or on the conditions for its realization in particular societies. The purpose of the project is, thus, to analyze political, social, and economic contexts of migration and their normative meaning. Our assumption is that the right to freedom of movement can be appropriately understood only if we take into account different reasons for migration and a range of empirical constraints. In the first phase of the project we will examine whether the various reasons for emigration and immigration result in different legitimate claims or duties. The second phase will be about the normative weight or legitimacy of different obstacles to immigration. These obstacles can have their basis in law, but also in other societal factors. Against the backdrop of these explorations, the third phase is devoted to the development of a precise understanding of the right to the freedom of movement as well as to its contexts of realization.

A key question in discussions about global justice is how to deal with refugees, who escaped from hunger, poverty or political persecution, and how to redistribute resources and assign responsibility within and across societies. The debate about the conditions for establishing legitimate political procedures and institutions has pointed to requirements of inclusion and participation for all, but also to problems linked to migration that put a strain on those institutions. The research on multicultural and diverse societies as a whole looks at mass migration as a chief cause for specific problems and seeks to answer pressing questions as to the just and adequate ways of dealing with migration and post-migrant perspectives and issues. On the one hand, there must be criteria that help us to decide, which empirical findings we should take into account when discussing normative questions; on the other hand, we need to understand how normative perspectives are already shaping and motivating empirical research.


Johanna Gördemann, M.A. (Researcher)

Prof. Dr. Andreas Niederberger (Principal Investigator)


In cooperation with:

Prof. Dr. Volker Heins (KWI – Principal Investigator) info

Prof. Dr. Corinna Mieth (RUB – Principal Investigator) info

Prof. Dr. Christian Neuhäuser (TUD – Principal Investigator) info


Project duration: 2015-2018