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First comprehensive global analysis of COVID-19 travel restrictions, border closures weighs future impacts on mobility

The pandemic has gravely impacted global mobility, stranding millions of people, migrant labourers, family members or international students overseas. Photo: IOM

While the overall picture of cross-border human mobility in 2020 is of movement dramatically curtailed as a result of measures imposed by governments since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report shows a varying reality over time and by region, with particularly harsh effects for refugees and other migrants who move out of necessity.

The report resulting from the collaboration by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) marks the first comprehensive analysis of the travel measures and border closures that governments around the world took during 2020—which at their peak in mid-December exceeded 111,000 in place at one time. The report, COVID-19 and the State of Global Mobility in 2020, results from MPI analysis of IOM’s COVID-19 Mobility Impacts platform, which collects all of the actions taken by countries and subnational authorities to close international borders, restrict travel between particular locations, impose quarantines and health requirements for travellers, and establish “travel bubbles” and other arrangements.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has gravely impacted global mobility, stranding millions of people, migrant labourers, family members or international students overseas,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino. “This report draws out these dynamics over the course of 2020 and highlights the ways governments are attempting to restart mobility in 2021 and beyond.”

Cross-border mobility in 2020 can be divided into three phases, the report’s authors find:

  • January to May: Mobility lockdowns. In this first phase, countries introduced a raft of national lockdowns, other travel restrictions and health requirements to respond to the fast-evolving public health crisis. The scale of border closures was unprecedented, many occurring with limited coordination. By the end of March, governments had issued or extended 43,300 travel measures. Movements of all kinds were dramatically curtailed. For instance, the numbers of passengers on international flights in April and May were down by 92 per cent relative to the same months in 2019.
  • June to September: Phased reopening. This period brought the staggered reopening of some points of entry, especially of airports. Travel bans were increasingly replaced by health measures, including certificates of pre-departure COVID-19 tests, quarantine measures or health declarations. During this phase, different strategies across the world began to crystallize. This was obvious most clearly in the divergent approaches of island countries: as New Zealand and Australia pursued virus-elimination strategies and maintained border closures, others such as the Caribbean islands opened up to tourism.
  • October to December: Responses to new outbreaks and virus mutations. The remainder of the year was a mixed picture, as countries sought to replace travel restrictions with health requirements, while battling a second (and in some cases, third) wave of infections and grappling with the emergence of new variants of the virus. Some countries, including Chile, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates, opened even to tourists. Health certificates became the most common health-related travel measure.
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Three shifts in cross-border mobility were particularly visible, and could persist in the years ahead:

  • Widening gulf between movers and non-movers. The pandemic has deeply curtailed the mobility prospects of some groups who move out of necessity, including refugees and migrant workers, while having little effect on business travellers and others with the resources and opportunity to cross borders for work, family or tourism. This gulf is especially likely to persist if travel begins to favour those who have been vaccinated or tested, or if reliance on digital health records makes a person’s ability to travel dependent on digital access and literacy.
  • Greater socioeconomic vulnerabilities. The pandemic has amplified the socioeconomic vulnerability of those who depend on mobility for survival. Job losses have hit migrant workers hard, especially since in many countries they often work in sectors particularly disrupted by pandemic response measures or with a higher infection risk.
  • Amplified relationships of dependence and exploitation. Restrictions on movement have increased the dependence of many migrants on intermediaries and facilitators, from employment agencies to smugglers. Even as fast-changing travel restrictions have increased the demand for smuggling services among people desperate to flee violence, natural disasters and economic deprivation, or to be able to return home, they have pushed smugglers to use more dangerous routes and raise their prices – exposing migrants and refugees to an increased risk of exploitation and trafficking.
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The report examines the future of mobility as countries begin to emerge slowly from the pandemic, finding no easy or one-size-fits-all answers.

“More than a year on from the onset of the pandemic, it remains an open question what role border closures, travel restrictions and health-related travel requirements should play in a pandemic management response,” said MPI President Andrew Selee. “As new strains of the virus emerge, governments face the challenge of developing risk mitigation strategies that move beyond the blunt tools of border closures and travel bans. They also need to avoid unilateral responses and work with other governments and international organizations to develop well-planned border health policies.”

Read the report here

About the International Organization for Migration 

Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. With 173 member states, a further nine states holding observer status and offices in over 100 countries, IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants. Learn more about IOM: www.iom.int. 

About the Migration Policy Institute 

A nonpartisan organization, MPI seeks to improve immigration and integration policies through authoritative research and analysis, opportunities for learning and dialogue, and the development of new ideas to address complex policy questions. Founded in 2001, MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels. It aims to meet the rising demand for pragmatic and thoughtful responses to the challenges and opportunities that large-scale migration, whether voluntary or forced, presents to communities and institutions in an increasingly integrated world. For more on MPI, visit www.migrationpolicy.org.  

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Edo goes after assets, properties of traffickers

 

The Edo State Government plans to go after the assets and properties of persons behind the wanton trafficking of indigenes of the state.

Governor Godwin Obaseki told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja yesterday that proceeds from such properties would be ploughed into the rehabilitation and reintegration of returnees.

Convicting the perpetrators and liquidating their assets, according to the governor, will serve as a deterrent to others who are still scouting for vulnerable Nigerians to traffic.

The governor, who was among guests at an event held at the British High Commission in Abuja on Thursday, however, said that the state had been hindered by delays in prosecution.

He said whereas government had recruited competent prosecutors, judicial processes, long adjournments and handling of victims’ testimonies were delaying government’s move to get convictions.

He said: “We have been able to intensify investigation and prosecution. But unfortunately, we have not been able to get any conviction.

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“Not because the prosecutors are not doing their utmost best, but because of the very nature of our legal system.

“We are working very hard with the high courts and NAPTIP to ensure that we get convictions.

“This can serve as a deterrent and punishment to the perpetrators, ensuring that they lose property and they lose assets with which we will now use in supporting the rehabilitation of victims.

“We will work with the judiciary to try and reduce the long adjournments and also the way they treat evidences from victims.

“Many of these victims are afraid of revealing information on their traffickers because of threats, but we are taking measures to provide safe houses for them and to provide cover for them until we are able to get prosecutions.”

The governor said that in the last four years under his watch, the number of persons trafficked from the state had reduced with rehabilitation and reintegration of over 6,500 returnees.

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He said that the focus for the government, working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), is to re-humanise the victims and restore their dignity.

He added that the government also, in the process of rehabilitation, extracts information from the victims in a bid to understand the scope and nature of the network.

“We have rehabilitated over 6,500 victims of trafficking and irregular migration working with partners like the IOM.

“We have also used the opportunity to extract a lot of data to understand the nature and scope of all these trafficking network and crisis.

“With that information, we now understand what drives people and what have driven people to be trafficked, the areas they come from, their social situation and economic situations.

“That has helped us to put strategies in place to combat trafficking in Edo state.

“You would see from records available that the incidence of trafficking and irregular migration in Edo state over the last three years has dropped dramatically,” he said.

READ  Without safe migration, economic recovery will be limited

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JIFORM to African leaders: give youths social security to combat human trafficking

Ajibola JIFORM President

JIFORM President Ajibola

As the world marks the 2021 Day Against Trafficking In Persons on July 30, the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) has urged government in Africa to pay more attention to the social security schemes to stem the tide of human trafficking on the continent.

The global media body with over 300 journalists covering migration across the continents is hosting its 3rd global migration summit in partnership with the Altec Global Inc, Toronto Canada and others at the Niagara Falls in the country between November 29 to December 6, this year.

The President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi in a statement noted that “the major pull factor of human trafficking in Africa is poverty. The youths being trafficked need jobs, shelter, security and empowerment. Before we can ensure that the victims’ voices lead the way as the theme of the 2021 anti-human trafficking day implies, every government on the continent must not pretend on the relevance of improved socio- economic status for their citizens. Time to do needful is now by being honest and set aside undue semantics and theories.

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“We salute the doggedness of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) in Nigeria. The law establishing the agency should be reviewed to mandate the leadership of the agency to be totally professional and hierarchically structured as uniformed organization.

“NAPTIP needs more funding to recruit more hands and have its presence in the 774 local governments in Nigeria. The agency should be more strategically involved in the migration process of mostly young Nigerian ladies to be sure of their mission at the airports through collaboration with the Nigeria Immigration Service.

“Youth empowerment is very key to any preventive measure. Poverty, economic hardship and ignorance are the major weapons being used by the traffickers to sway victims in Africa especially Nigeria.

“Therefore, for the theme of this year’s anti-human trafficking day to be meaningful in Nigeria and Africa, JIFORM agrees totally that listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking are very important. Survivors are key actors in the fight against human trafficking.

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“But how well have we re-integrate many of them into the society? The victims play a crucial role in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identifying and rescuing victims and supporting them on their road to rehabilitation.

“We cannot agree less with the United Nations that many victims of human trafficking have experienced ignorance or misunderstanding in their attempts to get help. They have had traumatic post-rescue experiences during identification interviews and legal proceedings. Some have faced revictimization and punishment for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. Others have been subjected to stigmatization or received inadequate support. So, we must rise to implement the preventive measures and defend the victims.

“Learning from victims’ experiences and turning their suggestions into concrete actions will lead to a more victim-centered and effective approach in combating human trafficking. The media too must play its roles to carry out more campaigns to complement what is expected from the government” Ajibola added.

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IOM rushes to help refugees as deadly monsoon rains wreak havoc in Bangladesh

 

IOM, Rohingya volunteers and partners are working relentlessly to assist those affected by this week’s heavy rains in Bangladesh. Photo: IOM/Mashrif Abdullah Al

Cox’s Bazar – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said today many of the more than 13,000 Rohingya refugees forced out of their camps by flooding in Cox’s Bazar which has killed at least six people were returning to their shelters to salvage belongings after a break in heavy rains, but the risk of more casualties remained high.

IOM said a total of more than 21,000 refugees had been affected and almost 4,000 shelters were destroyed. Food distribution centres, health facilities and water points have been damaged during three days of non-stop rain.

The six confirmed dead were killed in landslides or drowned in two IOM-managed camps and officials fear more flooding and landslides will prevent help reaching others among the total of 884,000 Rohingya refugees in the country.

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Access to the camps is hazardous as constant landslides block the main roads leading to the camps, and major routes used by refugees and humanitarian actors are under water.

Up to 2,000 people have been evacuated from landslide-prone areas in Teknaf upazila (sub-district).

“Heavy rainfall is expected during the next few days, and as such, challenges are likely to increase,” said Manuel Marques Pereira, IOM Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh.

“Over the past few months, IOM has been assessing the risk of landslides, strengthening drainage networks, installing slope protection measures and upgrading key pathways. However, despite multiple disaster risk reduction measures being implemented, the camp congestion, excessive rain and poor soil quality, make it extremely difficult to cope with the elements,” Pereira said.

One hundred Rohingya Disaster Management Unit (DMU) volunteers trained in each camp have been working around the clock and focusing on helping the most vulnerable, including the elderly and pregnant women. IOM teams are assessing the damage and working closely with the different sectors to refer those affected for relevant assistance. Mobile medical teams have been deployed and the protection emergency response unit has been activated.

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Staff on the ground are clearing drainage pipes, repairing damage and distributing emergency shelter kits, core relief items, and aquatabs to prevent waterborne diseases.

IOM has sent in Cyclone Preparedness Programme volunteers to urgently assist host community members.

Families have taken refuge in six different multi-purpose cyclone shelters where they are currently being assisted with relief items, protection and medical support. Since 2019, IOM has been supporting the rehabilitation of MPCS so community members can take shelter in case of disasters.

The current flood emergency further exacerbates the massive humanitarian needs of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. After almost four years since the latest influx of Rohingya refugees who arrived in Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar, IOM is relying on its partners to continue to support the response.

Additional support is needed to enable teams to continue to assist those affected, as well as the rest of the refugees currently residing in the camps. As always, IOM advocates for the continuation of a comprehensive humanitarian assistance for refugees across all camps.

READ  Human trafficking in West Africa: three out of four victims are children says UNODC report

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