E.g., 12/05/2020
E.g., 12/05/2020

Will International Migration Governance Survive the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Policy Briefs
October 2020

Will International Migration Governance Survive the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The toolbox of international migration governance has few instruments for dealing with the migration-related challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most international agreements on migration are designed to aid people on the move and to assist states in dealing with this movement, voluntary or forced. Yet the pandemic is a disaster characterized more by immobility than movement. While some migrants have been sent back to their origin countries or compelled to return due to job losses, many others have been stranded in destination countries by border closures and travel restrictions, and some would-be migrants have been unable to move abroad as intended.

The most recent addition to the migration governance toolbox—the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration—does, however, offer states useful guidance. As this policy brief discusses, the objectives outlined in the compact include some that have gained added, real-time urgency during the pandemic and others that will be essential as states work to restart international migration safely.

This brief also considers how the pandemic and its economic fallout have affected the relationship between migration and development, including in terms of its impacts on migrant workers and remittances. With remittances predicted to drop by at least 20 percent globally in 2020 compared to 2019, the effects on remittance-dependent countries will be particularly severe. This may spread the pandemic-induced economic pain even to places that have been relatively less affected by the virus itself.

Looking ahead, this brief considers how greater cooperation between states and with multilateral agencies, civil-society organizations, the private sector, and philanthropies can assist in the immediate pandemic response, as well as in efforts to rebuild lost livelihoods and, eventually, reopen legal migration channels.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  Migration Governance Before and After COVID-19

3  Are the Global Compact and UN Migration Network Relevant in the COVID-19 Era?
A. Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis
B. Restoring International Migration
C. Objectives with Dual Importance
D. Configuring the UN System for a Role in Migration

4  Migration, Development, and COVID-19

5  Wanted: A Global Framework for Restoring the Link between Migration and Development
A. Multilateral Frameworks for Responding to Immobility Are Few
B. A Phased Approach to Addressing the Pandemic’s Migration Impacts

6  Conclusion