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The Right of Free Travel (visa-free) for Every Human Being on Planet Earth

This is a very problematic issue in my mind (which is not too far from slavery or racism in theoretical base) that has to be ended or changed in some way. I think the arguments on one side of the issue are so basic and strong that it is not easy to legitimate the current situation using some contra arguments like "the security of the borders of the nations" etc.

So I really wonder what the TED Community thinks about this major but not so much discussed topic. Please join and share your valuable insights...

To start the discussion, here are some basic arguments that come to my mind:

1 - Univ. Dec. Human Rights Article1: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." and some other articles and the general spirit of the Declaration that reinforces the idea of same justice for every human being.
2 - I think that the most effective way to diminish and eliminate all kinds of discriminatory prejudices which all of us actually have toward all "the others" at different levels in us and which are also in my opinion a major handicap for world peace is through people coming together, meeting and knowing each other and sharing their lives, stories, thoughts...I think there isn't a better way to really kill our stupidities towards each other. (And the second best way is story telling arts and works I think)
3 - Some other inequalities which are inherently unjust:
-The geography where one was born in defines how much of the planet is accessible to him/her. (In theoretical sense here it looks very similar to racism)
-Corporations which are absolutely more harmful to everything than individual people move freely everywhere but the people can't?!? (Where is "the security of the nations" here?)
-If travelling is a way of education (which I think absolutely is) some people are not provided with this very basic right.

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    Jul 27 2011: Hello Emre,

    Great topic and great points!

    I too consider myself a World Citizen, but my rationale is a bit more simplistic.

    I was born on Earth, that makes me an Earthling and that makes the Earth (THE WHOLE THING) my birthright. Therefore, I see no reason why I should be logically kept from traveling wherever it is I please on this planet. So long as I do no harm to anyone where I am...and I mean actual harm, not perceived harm based upon egotism or prejudice.

    Looking from space it would seem we are all from one place, and I hardly think the Earth takes us seriously as we continue to partition it. A flood one place on Earth has reverberations everywhere on Earth. It is the same with actions and energy.

    It is no surprise, then, how much our species suffers from separatism. That being said, the Earth will continue to be a whole organism even after we've separated ourselves back into our atom state prematurely.

    "World Passports" are long overdue, or Passports are long outdated. Whether we'll wake up to this reality before it's too late (for us) is the interesting question!
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    Aug 21 2011: I like the thought of free travel, but in practice we have too many people with less than positive intentions regarding their reason for visiting another land.
    I enjoy the opportunity to visit with and learn about other cultures, but in this political, war torn world we live in there are others who have plans to make their travels less pleasing for those they visit.

    If we could guarantee that all travelers would "live and let live" than visa-less travel would work. We are far from that ideal place.
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      Aug 22 2011: Hi,

      Your view about this issue is very similar to Earl Shoop's. If you are interested in my arguments about this point of view you can read my reply to Earl's comment. Thanks for joining...
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    Jul 18 2011: From a utopian point of vieuw, I even think one should be able to live where-ever one wants to live, and indeed travel as one likes.

    From pragmatical point of view:
    - mass migrations can cause troubles, and might better be avoided
    - countries want to secure some safety or wealth, and don't want people with bad intentions enter their country.=> stricter regulations and more paperwork to enter (tracability)
    - some countries are on unfriendly terms with each other. This can mean that they deny each other's citizens some freedom (of movement).
    - brain-drain and economic drain from certain countries can also mean travel-limitations.

    The idea of having a ID (does not really exist in America, in Belgium we have to carry our Belgian ID card at all times) is not bad.
    Checking in and out of airplanes; boats, countries by scanning your id is not a problem to me. Doesn't cost me anything and the country know's who is within it's borders... a handy thing to monitor above mentioned problems.
    And it does not limit your traveling (as we can all agree that such a system is sufficient)
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    Jul 27 2011: Allow me to submit that, so long as there are those who wish to do harm to others, absolute freedom to travel anywhere we wish will be curtailed.

    Perhaps, when we have true "World Peace," we shall have such freedom?
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      Jul 27 2011: Dear Earl,


      Ok then, let's cut the travel right as a whole, globally. Everyone stays "at home". Deal? :) According to your argument this is the logical way, at least until the "world peace" is "offered" to us (maybe by aliens).

      How can I be sure that you do not have any bad intentions regarding a certain culture or country? Are the answers for these questions in your skin colour, in your mother tongue, in your religion, in your nationality, sexual orientation, etc.? Why is an US citizen allowed to travel nearly everywhere and why should an Afghani stay "at home". Is it because that Afghanis are potentially a threat to world peace?
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        Aug 21 2011: Humans are going to need to accept the idea that our purpose in life is to serve each other, not harm one another, before we have evolved to the point that we can have World Peace. Those of us who decide to grow more kind, thoughtful, patient, forgiving, etc... in short, more human, can measure our progress by monitoring how well we treat each other on the road. Road-Peace will be a step toward World Peace. (see my conversation on this, please)
    • Aug 18 2011: True world peace sounds like a utopian goal, an argument just to avoid more equitable free travel to all.
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    Jul 18 2011: we wont know true freedom till this happens.
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    Let's focus on free (touristic) travel, not on migration (which is not my topic here). And to those who says "no" right from the beginning I recommend thinking more because generally these are the people who can travel to the most of the countries without visas being required from them. So they are enjoying the current climate of the situation. The easy objections without sound, factual arguments by free travellers to other people's free travel right look like a childish grudge or a super-egocentric perception of the reality to me. Yes, practically maybe it is a hard issue to be solved perfectly yet it does not mean that the current situation of it is as good as it can be.
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    Aug 24 2011: It all comes down to economy. It is unlikely for some poor person in Africa to spend thousands of dollar just visit to Europe or America. Most plan to stay there get a job bring their relatives. If you can prove to the visa issuers that you going to come back, and your primary purpose of going there is to visit you can get a visa. They even encourage you to come because they need the tourism money. I have some objection in "the geography where one was born in defines how much of the planet is accessible to him/her”. Some People living, in this geographic area, who have money to travel and spend ,can go to any country they want. It sad so many people in the poor countries are not eligible to travel. But the reason is the economic injustice that is prevalent in the world. That has to be tackled first.
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    Aug 21 2011: May I know why your title of debate is almost written in Capital letters?
    Limited use of capital letters puts empahsis on points one want to emphasize, but this kind of use may send different signal to recipient that's what I feel.
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      Aug 21 2011: Dear Salim,

      Thank you for your remark. Actually yesterday I have thought the same thing. Even if it is a bit late I have changed it now.

      The reason by the way :) : When I opened the debate I just thought that this was a major human rights violation, got a bit angry and put that title in capital letters in order to make it more visible to everyone...

      Sorry for the inconvenience...
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        Aug 25 2011: Hi Emre
        Understand your points and also agree to some extent with your premise if not completely Visa free at least it should be easier if we are really so rich in data management and analysis.
        I also have following question in mind
        -----Why should one with my color, name or country of origin should face same hassle every time even to get a visa to the same country? Are not they able to analyse my past data to decide ?
        ------More the developed countries are more stricter it is in a sense , are not they using their IT power in analysing data ?

        Many thanks for responding to my request.
        Have a good day
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    Aug 20 2011: In many respects of your argument for a world without Borders ,I agree with you ...but who's going to pay for it.My parents ,and their parents and now me pay taxes,work hard and contribute to make our country better.Then everybody just arrives and lives off what we've worked so hard to achieve.her in the UK our Healthcare ,welfare and Education system is being exploited and we are all suffering.Soon the developed countries will be reduced to a lower class of living.The Uk people give the highest amount in foreign aid but still immigration is a problem.I ask myself why do so many people from so far away want to come and live in a rainy little island .Sometimes their efforts are so huge,living in transit camps,hiding in trucks,trains etc Why?
    Everybody wants a better life.I believe you should stay and mke your country better not try and live of the hard work of others.
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      Aug 22 2011: Hi Illona,

      First I would want to make it clear again that our topic is about the right of free (without visas) travel, it's not about unconditional residence and/or working permit or "a better life" for those in need (although this would be worth discussing in another debate)...

      You might not like this idea but I suspect that the wealth of your country might stem from the taxes of you and your parents' hard work but more than that it might have stemmed from it being a colonist empire which used huge amounts of free labour (slavery) and raw materials from its colonies all over the world a long time ago, now having oily wars-loving governments (Iraq, Afghanistan) and huge global corporations which know how to make money at its best still quite exploiting world's natural resources and using cheap labour. So it might not always be so easy for someone to define the exact sources of the wealth of his/her country in our globalised, incorporated tiny little blue marble. Please do not feel offended because this is how capitalism works and I couldn't have answered your argument without mentioning this reality...

      Thanks for joining...

      PS:Some of your better life with a lot of sunshine seeker fellow citizens :) immigrate to southern Turkey. Do you believe that they should stay in UK and let Turkey's coasts to Turkish citizens for living?
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        Aug 22 2011: Having the right of free travel without visa and border controls isn't feasible.ther are so many other issues like
        1 what areyou going to do in the country you visit?..terrorism ,crime,drugs,misuse/abuse of healthcare system,
        2 the burden on the existing infrastructure when a lot of people want to "visit" a country.
        3 opening the Borders leads to easier trafficking of people (slavery)
        4 criminals roaming from country to country so you don't know who you are living next to.

        colonialism was a long time ago and a lot of tax has been paid since then to develop the UK.
        it's easy to have a limited view of ones own world
        Also I visit the turkish coast each year and accept your countrys system and border control...did you know they charge me £10 English currency just to pass through your immigration .
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          Aug 23 2011: Dear Illona,

          Again, I am talking about the right for travel without visas, nothing else...Where did you get the idea from that I am for entering a country without border controls today? (But also you have to remember that there are no border controls in the EU and you are still alive so this can also work for more countries...)

          1 - These are things one can practice in his own country too if one has the intention. The tendency of yours to see others as evil beings is quite problematic in my opinion, sorry.
          2 - People, societies, cities, countries can and should evolve according to the changing dynamics of the world. Paris, London, Istanbul, etc. are still living, aren't they?
          4 - There are still passports and border controls so security authorites can still catch the criminals but may I just ask you if you are so obsessed about all the hidden badness of the people, should I be worried about (for example) your coming (you said you visit Turkey each year) because you travel without a visa? How can the people of the countries you visit be sure that you are a nice person? Or do you think that you have to be required to apply for visas for every country you visit so that your good intentions can be proved officially?

          I think everyone's view is always limited. What we can do best is be aware of this fact and always try to expand the boundries of our minds.

          To conclude, are you aware that these arguments of yours does not prove anything in order to legitimate the current unjust regulations about visas but show your one sided world view which presumes that you are nice and others are not. You should roam freely but others not.

          And of course I don't agree with my weird government. No one should pay anything for crossing a border. (Do you know that until recent times turkish citizens paid more than £300 (now £130) to get a turkish passport for a five years period. Dealing with this mentality £10 for border crossing should make you happy)
  • Aug 18 2011: Visas...a big pet peeve for me. I understand passports as a way to identify some one ans to register their entry into a country, but visas are just artificial. It is human to want to travel or even immigrate to some place better to improve your lot in life. This is why human race migrated out of Africa to all over the world. This is why we flourished as a species. Now however, we think we know better than nature and we let unnatural physical borders, made by governments, decide who can go where. There would be more equity in the world. But, may be that is why there are visas, so that there are inequities thatcan be exploited by the few who are at an advantage.
  • Aug 18 2011: nobody likes the poor. if you go anywhere to spend money, the natives will love you. as long as you get back to where you're from. if you arrive empty handed to look for a job or a lending to start a business, nobody will wellcome you.
    i have been expelled from venezuela and the usa because i was there illegal, just when things were getting on track.
    i can tell you i hate fences, walls, locked doors, anything that separates.
  • Aug 6 2011: Your argument is only theoritical and in that sense it can be appreciated . However wherever the country or place we leave , there are certain rules and regulation required to before entering some places within own country. For example , the military area is normally restricted to the public. Also when a stranger come to our house , we will not allow him to enter our house with out getting sufficient information . This is where the VISA rule starts! . Then how can we expect to go some foriegn countries with out VISA
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      Aug 18 2011: I think that you mean passport instead of visa. A visa is just an okay that you are allowed out of the country and into another country
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    Jul 30 2011: Good Idea but who will do the beginning? which Government in the world have guts to take this initiative for their own country. This is the big question. As long as there is mine in the dictionary there will be borders and controls, first we need to go beyond mine and then we can erase all the borders across al the nations of the world!
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    Jul 29 2011: I know many people will say it's a precocious measure. But this keeping the "dangerous" outside is also affecting everyone else. Especially since we know that the visa systems are not actually about individuals, but about whole nations.
    I'm not against passports, I love the stamps in it :D
    But I really don't see the reason for the cold war mentality...
  • Jul 27 2011: A lot of focus on security being the major reason for the government controls that exist. Isn't it easier for a government to sell the security risk than the economic risk? Wealthy societies are the ones that tend to the spend most time worrying (not necessarily acting) about human rights, so protecting lives will always be an easier sell to the people than protecting an economy.

    Many thoughts on rights, inalienable and otherwise. Rights a concept and a product of human thinking. Like all concepts they will be interpreted, re-interpreted and applied as fits the purpose. The only inalienable thing about a right, is the concept itself.

    Mentions of the challenges of countries, societies, groups individuals not getting on. With some suggestions of solutions to the problem. Isn't mankind inherently competitive, within groups and between groups. Where alliances are made, they are for competitive advantage. World peace is a long way off, while we compete... but without competition, would anything ever get done?

    So as to the original question:(1) rights are intangible concepts, so the global adoption of any right is a very long way off. (2) visa free travel... would lead to global mass migration and some really, really bad outcomes. Rationally right, but wholly impractical.
  • Jul 27 2011: It's not just visa that determine your travelling radius, but your ability to pay for the trip also maters. Having spent 10 years under UN santctions, with all the visa trouble I've lost a will to travel to the so-called west countries. I think I would rather visit Syria (while I still can) than some EU or USA country.
  • Jul 22 2011: Totally agree. In fact I've often thought about setting up a "country" or at least "corporate entity" which could issue and "Independent Passport". The Entity would then negotiate with small countries to get this "Independent Passport" accepted without a visa, at least for tourism at first.

    Once the Entity builds a critical mass of subscribers and small countries, they would then have some money and power to negotiate with the larger countries to try and get it accepted.

    In order to get this "Independent Passport", the applicant would have to go through a rigorous set of ID and biometrics and the passport would cost similar to a normal passport.

    After tourism has been granted to a large number of countries, work permits could then follow.

    We just need an alternative for people who just happen to be born in the wrong place. I have a UK passport and can pretty much travel anywhere, but even if you drive a Ferrari in China, you'd need a visa for pretty much anywhere you wanna go.
  • Jul 20 2011: In my opinion the VISA is a bureaucratic form of men guarding their territory.
    Many mammals and other animals are territorial, they gourd their territory to protect their food, family (pack), etc.

    Men have always been in a land bordered by imaginary lines. It's in our nature. And we want to protect these invisible lines so that our children would have a safe land to live and prosper. That is why we want to control whoever goes in and out our imaginary lines, so that no alien could harm our way of life.
    Of course in our modern society, with technologies like the internet this sounds obsolete, but not everyone has this technology, or any other form of communicational technology.

    I would like to address the point that allowing freedom of travel will reduce prejudice: History, and everyday life, shows us that even people who live next to each other for hundreds of years can still have prejudice thoughts against them for being different in skin color, religious views, political views, the way they throw the trash etc.

    I must remind you that most of the worlds population cannot allow leaving their homes and livelihood and travel to another city, let alone another country.

    It's a pity, but it's our nature to try and protect ourselves from strangers. Just like the need for a document called VISA: A need to filter (=protect ourselves from) people who enter our territory.
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      Jul 21 2011: I think that some communities living side by side for ages but have strong prejudices against each other are so maybe because of mainly two reasons:
      1 - The amount of people in these societies who travel are not enogh so that they are not able to see that there are other values, "defaults", ways of lives on this planet too so that they can realize there is actually no such thing as a universal default/value system etc. and no society can be blamed or alienated or otherized for the way it is.
      2 - They don't experience each other's lives really. One side just observes the other from a mental and/or physical distance believing that his is "the default reality", "the default way of living" and so the other is alienated/otherized very easily. Then this becomes a very strong cultural code which is being transferred almost genetically from one generation to the next for ages...

      (Thanks to the internet and expanding communication systems even non travelling cultures begin to realize and to become confused about their default value systems.)
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    Jul 19 2011: By the way, I encourage everyone who liked this topic to click on the "thumbs up" symbol on top the page right under the introduction box so that maybe The TED staff might put this under the featured conversations list and we can reach more people and their opinions...
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    Jul 18 2011: For example, have you ever thought about the fact that some TED speakers from non European countries (Middle Eastern countries for example) who enriched our lives with their works, experiences, etc. wouldn't have had the chance to come to the US if it wasn't for TED (even if they would want to visit the US just as tourists) because most probably, they wouldn't have been granted the fancy piece of paper called the visa by the US embassies without an invitation from a reputable organization.
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    Jul 18 2011: i think the issue is a little bit more complicated. i agree that state's has no right to obstruct free movement of people based on their nationality, religion, language, gender or any other group membership.

    on the other hand, people have the right to allow or disallow anyone to step on their own private land, without any explanation whatsoever.
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      Jul 18 2011: Actually people don't have this right. For example no Mexican or American has the right to tell his/her government via a referandum that they don't want some oil company (BP) comes to their lands and makes a catastrophic mess there killing vast natural resources of thousands of species including us humans. Or no Nigerian has the right to call the UN for action to stop Shell exploiting Nigeria's vital resources (for more information about this you can see the documentary "The Age of Stupid"...)
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        Jul 18 2011: you are perfectly right. when i say "have the right" i actually mean "should have the right". at the moment, this right has been taken away from the people.
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    Jul 18 2011: Let's start by borders:
    since the colonization period.
    that was to know the borders of each colony, they came up with the so called political borders.
    things got complicated by time.
    security issues pop up.
    no clue against whom they were afraid of the other colonizers!, maybe.
    anyhow, wanted to make their citizens different or whatever, they created IDs and then passports and more.
    travelers had to have a confirmation, for security reasons still, in the form of VISAs.
    more limits VISAs have; time limit and type of the visit, whether business, travel or education.
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      Jul 19 2011: We can consider visas as forms of confirmation, as you put it. However, I doubt they grant security; a complete one, at least. I have crossed borders (on a bus) within the EU without any ID controls whatsoever. How does that serve to the safety visas are supposed to bring?
      There was no way for the state to know I was within their territory, so they could not "monitor" me. And monitoring does not always mean preventing and controlling, anyways.
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        Jul 20 2011: if you're traveling within the EU, this is a "union" to get inside any country from the EU, you get ea confirmation, you can access all other countries

        most of my friends, got a VISA for a certain country, EUian, though had access to all other countries
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          Jul 20 2011: I know how it works within member countries. My point is that security concerns alone is not a good enough reason. I'm a Turkish citizen and I hold a special type of passport that doesn't even require any visa applications for most European countries for visits up to three months. Unlike most people, I never had to apply for a visa for any short term visits. Does (Should) the color of my passport automatically qualify me for travelling?
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    Jul 18 2011: Its a protection of culture. Although polynation will cause new cultures .. in some way 'meta cultures'.

    I am in Australia, people dont seem to come here, we dont seem to go anywhere else.. (generally speaking). Look at italy, france, spain germany... amazing cultures and still different, recognisable, built on years of border protections. Im impressed.

    Australia has no culture, we are too young, and exposed to each nation. We are multicultural and so that is our culture. But 'the aussie stereotype; has begun to dissapear and so... brings me back round to the front.

    Do we as humans protect our cultures? Does the Free travel screw with that concept? - Individuals make little difference, but the masses do...
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      Jul 18 2011: A quote I like: " 'Concepts of well-being for countries, for peoples and for individuals are changing. In such a world, to argue for rules that never change would be to deny the reality found in scientific knowledge and reasoned judgment."