E.g., 04/22/2024
E.g., 04/22/2024
Converging Crises: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Migration in South America

As it did in other regions, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted initial lockdowns and widespread border closures in South America, severely limiting human mobility and creating new barriers to the integration of refugees and other migrants. Certain dynamics specific to the region complicated the public-health response and subsequent reopening. Intraregional migration and displacement, particularly from Venezuela, had spiked in recent years. Thus, when COVID-19 hit, many countries were already grappling with increased demands on their regularization, integration, and broader social welfare systems.

Cross-border mobility in the region has resumed as COVID-19 cases have fallen. Still, the pandemic offers important lessons on how to promote safe and sustainable mobility in the future. These include the value of incorporating migrants and refugees into emergency assistance programs, and the need for robust regional cooperation mechanisms to help governments develop coordinated responses to migration and protection issues.

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 the Middle East and North Africa. 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 emergencies.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  Pre-Pandemic Migration and Labor Mobility Patterns
A. Who Was on the Move before the Pandemic?
B. Legal Status and Precarity
C. Labor Market Participation

3  The Pandemic’s Impacts on Migrants and Mobility
A. Border Closures and Travel Restrictions
B. Impacts on Labor Patterns and Working Conditions
C. Left Stranded: Precarious Mobility and Migration Dynamics

4  Lessons for Migration Policy: Toward Safe and Sustainable Cross-Border Mobility
A. Inclusive Vaccination Campaigns
B. Comprehensive Socioeconomic Assistance and Integration Programs
C. Sustainable Regularization Programs
D. Effective Regional Cooperation Mechanisms