Vulnerability, Responsibilities and Migration

Francesca Pongiglione, Roberta Sala


Vulnerability is commonly considered as a feature of human beings on which our duties towards each other are grounded: we ought to help the vulnerable in virtue of their being such. Our duties seem rather clear when those in need are close to us, both physically and culturally, but less so when they are distant in either of the two senses. In this essay we wish to investigate the strength of our duties towards migrants, who are often either culturally or physically distant, yet vulnerable by definition – fleeing from wars, dictatorships, poverty, climate change, or other calamities. The view we aim to defend, is that our duties towards them, unlike what has been suggested by David Miller, are duties of justice, not of beneficence, and involve duties to host. This, we claim, is owed to migrants’ very vulnerability, which is not due to some kind of misfortune, but, eventually, to some form of injustice. We will also claim that taking into account migrants’ own responsibility, either as individuals or as members of a collectivity, is of no practical use when establishing our duties to host them.


vulnerability; responsibility; migration; justice

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