E.g., 04/22/2024
E.g., 04/22/2024
Diverging Paths: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Migration in the Middle East and North Africa

The shutdown of mobility at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic had drastic effects on movement throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Migrant workers comprise much of the workforce in Arab Gulf states, Jordan, and Lebanon, and many lost their jobs and returned to their countries of origin. Tourism and travel, which represent a sizeable share of GDP for many countries, largely halted. And border closures stranded irregular migrants along many major routes.

Looking back, the global public-health crisis may have been less of a disruptor of existing trends, instead reinforcing and accelerating them. The Gulf has continued its shift away from petrowealth and toward more diversified economies that aim to depend less on migrant workers, and North Africa and Lebanon have become increasingly unstable.

This report is part of a series of studies by MPI’s Task Force on Mobility and Borders during and after COVID-19 that explores opportunities to improve international coordination regarding border management during public-health crises. Other regional case studies in this series look at Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and South America. Thematic studies consider the role of digital health credentials in facilitating movement, the use of risk analysis to shape border policies, and the rise of remote work and “digital nomads.” A final capstone policy brief reflects on lessons for future public-health crises.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  The Pandemic and Mobility Trends
A. Repatriation of Migrant Workers
B. Travel and Tourism
C. Irregular, Spontaneous, and Other Migration Flows

3  The Pandemic’s Impact on Policymaking
A. Enhancing Protections for Migrant Workers
B. Changing Workforce Composition
C. Facilitating Large-Scale Mobility and Travel

4  Moving Forward along Diverging Paths