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Without safe migration, economic recovery will be limited

‎We cannot recover from the coronavirus economic crisis without relaunching migration safely and universally.

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Migrants who are stranded in Honduras after borders were closed due to the pandemic are seen as they board a bus going to a shelter, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on June 3, 2020 [Jorge Cabrera/Reuters]
Migrants who are stranded in Honduras after borders were closed due to the pandemic are seen as they board a bus going to a shelter, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on June 3, 2020 [Jorge Cabrera/Reuters]

COVID-19 has created an unprecedented global health crisis. But with more than 50,000 travel restrictions in more than 200 countries, an equally unprecedented mobility crisis is emerging. The global system of mobility and travel has been returned to its factory settings. A privilege that so many of us take for granted, and others struggle to access, has been temporarily withdrawn. How – and when – we decide to reboot it will be critical to the future health of our populations, but also the future economic and social health of our countries. 

The United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, recently highlighted that people on the move find themselves particularly vulnerable to the effects of the crisis. While the organisation I lead, International Organization for Migration (IOM), is focused on the immediate needs of those migrants and communities most affected by the pandemic, we are also reflecting on the long-term implications of this dramatic suspension of movement. 

The current political, social and economic reaction to the virus is volatile. At the onset of the outbreak, governments shut borders in near unanimity. But beyond this, their reactions have diverged massively and haphazardly. In some countries, public services have been extended to undocumented migrants on the understanding that, just as viruses do not discriminate, neither can governments. In other parts of the world, rapid returns and expulsions of migrants are overwhelming countries of origin which are unprepared to support sudden, sometimes large-scale, arrivals. 

The broadening scope of possible responses – both positive and negative – makes it difficult to identify where the new political equilibrium will settle when the fog of the pandemic itself lifts.

But some interesting convergence is emerging. 

Much of the public debate in recent years – in Europe, as elsewhere – has centred on the value of skilled migrants. The unfortunate corollary of this has been an often-public rejection of unskilled migration. The current crisis, however, has driven home the “essential” nature of migrant labour, regardless of skill. We have seen how vital those who deliver food, clean public spaces, and provide domestic care have been in holding our societies together. 

Indeed, a number of countries have prolonged visas and work permits, exempted seasonal workers from travel restrictions, and extended the right to work to asylum seekers in order to fill critical gaps in the workforce, a welcome antidote to the negative discourse around migration in Europe and elsewhere over the past several years. 

Looking further ahead, this appreciation for the role of mobility will be important to retain. Researchers in Australia, for example, are pointing to a projected shortfall in immigration numbers as a result of the travel shutdown, which they warn could cripple Australia’s economic rebound.

The predicted economic recession will not only deeply affect migrants but also the global and regional patterns of mobility to which we have become accustomed. Geographic proximity and trust will be more important than ever for states – with an emphasis on “local” travel – and there is a risk that future mobility becomes two-tracked or two-speed based on national health concerns, placing those countries and individuals perceived to be at highest risk at a disadvantage. For example, if the health infrastructure of one country is seen by another as subpar, or COVID-19 testing fees at an airport are too steep, many will be excluded from travel or entry. 

If we are unable to relaunch migration and mobility safely – and universally – the world’s ability to recover from economic recession will be limited. This is the paradox facing governments today. Health concerns have driven restrictions in movement, but there will be no sustainable recovery without trade and mobility, without reopening borders in a smart and safe way.

Threats such as terrorism have affected travel before. But states are now facing an invisible enemy, albeit carried with benign and unwitting intent. States and regions will now need to find a new balance between health concerns and the need for mobility. This means health-proofing border management systems without jeopardising the social and economic potential that migration holds or marginalising specific groups. 

We can take cues from previous crises. The 9/11 attacks taught governments how to assess and incorporate new risks flexibly, and without shutting down entirely. The recent Ebola crises have reinforced the value of preventive infrastructure at borders, and the importance of contact tracing, but also the need to balance the opportunities and risks of surveillance and avoid social polarisation. The 2008 economic recession brought home the need to build community cohesion and identity, including for migrants, or risk deep and paralysing political rifts. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the dangers of persistent inequality in our societies, particularly for migrants and those citizens who struggle at the margins. While we go about the consuming work of mitigating the pandemic’s large-scale impacts and reestablishing human mobility, we should seize the opportunities ahead of us to address critical protection gaps, from social protection safety nets to public health access. 

Just as we have realised that migration is a critical part of our economies and societies, it is important to recognise that inclusive migration is not just good for migrants, but a public good which will benefit all of us. Our recovery can leave no one behind as we get moving again. 

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

READ  U.S. issues potential irregular African immigrants gentle warning

Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

READ  Covid-19: IOM supports health actors, builds  90 quarantine shelters in Nigeria

“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Nigeria Iifts suspension on Emirates Airline

 

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FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK

Kelvin

The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.

Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.

Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.

Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.

“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.

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Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

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READ  UNHCR releases supplementary COVID-19 appeal to meet exceptional refugee needs in 2021
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