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S. Benhabib, The Rights of Others. Aliens, Residents and Citizens

BENHABIB, S., The Rights of Others. Aliens, Residents and Citizens, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2004

“No human is illegal”. Thus begins Seyla Benhabib’s reflection, starting from the famous slogan of John Wilhelm pronounced during the Immigrant Workers’ Freedom Ride of 2003. The concept is simple: the need to sustain an important tendency in international jurisprudence that marks a move towards the decriminalising of migrant movements. It is important to recognise in every single human being the universal charter of the person, independently from his or her nationality. This does not mean that it is necessary to obliterate the borders of a political community but, rather, it means that we need to accept the fact that such borders have become porous. It follows that it is no longer possible to reason in terms of an unyielding contrast between those who are within and those who are outside, since the encounter between different people, the contact and mix of cultures, transforms the very concept of belonging. This is why it is necessary, according to Benhabib, to reformulate on an ongoing basis the rules of inclusion. How? Through the so-called democratic iterations, that is through the activation of public processes of discussions, deliberations and exchanges to take place between the various juridical and political institutions and, above all, the associations present in civil society. Only in this way is it possible to ensure the universal principles of human rights in a non abstract way, by seeking a temporarily shared means of contextualising these rights in the history of a democratic people.