COVID19 and its effects on mobility of migrants

Among the many changes the global pandemic COVID-19 has brought to the world, an important change is that hundreds of millions of people across the globe have encountered serious restrictions on their mobility. Although, associating mobility with the threat has adverse consequences in the long run.

Such severe constraints on mobility negatively impact the situation for the vulnerable groups in particular of migrants in detention camps. Mobility is already known as a resource that both includes and excludes and such implications make this pre-existing condition even worse.

On the 6th of May 2020, UNITEE took part in the webinar on “The effects of COVID19 on Mobility and Citizenship” as part of the Migration Policy Centre’s ongoing webinar series on migration and mobility.

Different speakers came together to look at the effects of COVID19 on mobility and citizenship, the immediate effects on the personal mobility, and to understand the effects this has in the current and future developments in the broader context of mobility and citizenship.

The status of migrants in the times of the global pandemic crisis was the main reason why UNITEE was participating in the webinar. How COVID-19 impacted migrant’s mobility and their status of citizenship in a global context? What measures need to be taken in terms of migrant rights from a political point of view?

During the first part of the discussion, Jemena Dzankic and Lorenzo Perreti, researchers at GlobalCit, RSCAS, EUI, provided with information on the general effects of COVID-19 on citizenship. They further presented different approaches towards foreign residents by showing a database on migration restrictions due to corona lockdown which indicates the number of governments across the world that have suspended the citizenship ceremonies and have temporary frozen the citizenship status such as UK, Denmark, Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the US.

“The Australian prime minister, for instance, invited all temporary residents and students to in a way go back to their own countries, because Australia had to focus on protecting its citizens and the permanent residents”, – stated Jemena Dzankic. “A different approach by contrast to the Australian one”, Dzankic added “Portugal extended the citizenship rights to all migrants who had pending permit requests with Portuguese Border Agency, by doing so Portugal allowed them to access healthcare and social security during the pandemic times”.

Given the difference in the developments of these measures, the UN is calling on the countries on a global scale to give migrants protection regardless of their current status in the country.

Dzankic concluded the first part of the discussion by stating that “Awareness on the significance of migration, would change not only the policies but also will influence a shift in the political discourse, a shift that would acknowledge that our societies thrive on and are not threatened by migration”.

During the last part of the discussion, Leiza Brumat, Research Fellow (MPC) focused on the effects of COVID-19 in the Global South, where the current crisis has led to more rather than less migration due to return migration and urban-rural mobility at both national and sub-national level.

On the whole picture, the pandemic has to a great extent affected the mobility of migrants. Intra-regional migration is increasingly becoming a common model of human mobility as countries are interdependently connected with their regional neighbours. In general, countries in the same regional area are confronted with similar concerns on their public policy. Therefore, it is reasonable that they seek to jointly manage the situation caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Such cooperation has already proven to be successful in some regions in the health care sector.

UNITEE will continue to keep you up to date on the situation of migrants during the pandemic. For more updates, like our page on Facebook.