There’s absolutely no secret that immigration has been tremendously affected in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic back in late December 2019 and early January 2020, countries have been forced to virtually close down their borders, lock down their points of entry, and restrict access to non-citizens in hopes to prevent further spreading the virus to their citizens.
While this sounds extreme, this might not necessarily be an overreaction, considering this pandemic has gone on to infect upwards of 18 million people from all around the world since January, according to Johns Hopkins.
With that in mind, there are some interesting projections for immigration trends in the coming future. After all, some countries are bracing for a second wave that could hit in the fall months, which could potentially prove to be even deadlier and more costly than the first wave. What ramifications could this have on immigration? Will borders remain closed? Will borders that have opened back up close down again? Will immigrants fear entering into COVID-19 hotspot countries like the US, Spain, and some new developing outbreaks in South America?
We really don’t know how this will unfold, but we can certainly examine the data that’s been collected so far and make an educated hypothesis as to what might come next.
Migrant Labor Has Stopped
We’ve seen the world come to a standstill, and in a world that operates with a globalized and interdependent economy, migrant labor has also come to a standstill. Not only that, but it has even left some migrant workers stranded or trapped in other countries as they struggle to navigate complex visa rules, changes, and restrictions.
Also, the potential for future industry changes and “optimizations” could devastate the migrant labor market. For instance, for international companies that rely on migrant workers, might look to streamline their operations in the wake of the pandemic. In other words, they could adopt cheaper, more agile automation technologies that render some of their migrant worker positions as obsolete.
Does Global Migration Become Less Safe?
At the Center For Strategic & International Studies, they suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced migration to move “increasingly into the shadows.” In other words, as countries continue to lock down their borders, restrict migrant access, and ultimately make it harder for those most vulnerable to enter other countries, these policies pave the way for less safe, and more risky migration practices.
“Irregular migration exists because there are not enough opportunities for safety and prosperity at home and too few regular means through which to remedy that lack of opportunity.” This is such an important aspect of migration to consider, because as people strive to move away from their home countries and into areas where they could potentially improve their quality of life, desperation could begin to set in, ultimately forcing migrants to turn to more irregular modes of migration.
How Is OECD Handling Migration?
Since the development of the pandemic, OECD has conducted some substantial research into the various migration policies of its member countries and just last month, they shared their findings with the world.
Three of the most important findings that stood out to us are outlined as follows:
- “In most OECD countries, travel bans have been put in place quickly to prevent importing new COVID-19 cases with the exception of a few countries, such as Mexico, which have taken no specific measure. However, in most cases, nationals and long-term residents have been able to come back home except in a few countries, which have imposed stricter measures such as Columbia.”
- “Migration and asylum offices as well as consular services abroad have been closed to the public for one to three months in most countries and backlogs of applications quickly increased. Some countries have facilitated online applications or email communication. Return and resettlement activities have de facto been suspended in most counties.”
- “Experiences from previous economic crises, suggest that the economic downturn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic may have disproportionate and long-lasting negative effects on the integration of immigrants and their children unless appropriate support measures are in place.”
These key findings are critical toward developing potential projections for how immigration will unfold as the pandemic continues and hopefully, subsides. According to OECD, travel bans have restricted the movement of people between countries, but it seems like the closing of migration and asylum offices have also made it increasingly more difficult for migrants to gain asylum status. And in countries like the US, asylum seekers have been forced to wait, as the issue has become an increasingly political talking point.
It’s clear to see – at least in the eyes of OECD, that international migration will undoubtedly experience a decrease in the immediate future. It also seems like it’s too early to tell just how, if, and when, conditions will become more favorable for migration.
At this point in time, it might even be easier to simply say that “things will never be the same,” in the wake of the pandemic because the world will emerge a different place. Changes are in order, and they’ll certainly come into play with global migration, but only time will tell as to how that will unfold.