As World Comes to Halt Amid Pandemic, So Do Migrants

As World Comes to Halt Amid Pandemic, So Do Migrants

Post by Isabel Wang.

Source: Semple, Kirk. “As World Comes to Halt Amid Pandemic, So Do Migrants,” The New York Times. May 4, 2020.

            Since the coronavirus pandemic started to spread at the end of March, there has been a significant decline in migratory traffic from South America, Central America, and Mexico to the US. A migrant shelter in southern Mexico that serves as a way station for migrants saw around 2,000 travelers last year. In the past weeks, COVID-19 slowed down migration from Mexico on an unprecedented scale. The shelter has seen less than 100 migrants pass through.

           Farms in western Europe are seeing labor shortages as a result of travel bans. Thousands of Venezuelans who had been working in Colombia have been heading back to Venezuela, as have Afghans from Iran and Pakistan, and Haitians from the Dominican Republic. Gillian Triggs, the assistant high commissioner for protection at the United Nations Refugee Agency, notes that “Many of those [immigrants] who are returning barely had a toehold in the informal labor sector in their adopted countries, and were denied access to social safety nets.”

The Trump administration tightened border restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. As a result, however, the processing of undocumented migrants and blocking access for asylum seekers has halted. Governments are closing their borders to refugees not only in the US but around the world as well. More than 120 countries have ordered some form of border closure. 30 of these countries are giving separate consideration to asylum seekers. Hundreds of Rohingya refugees on boats have been turned away in Malaysian ports by authorities citing pandemic restrictions. Stranded migrants are not able to practice social distancing, putting them at a more prominent risk of exposure to the virus.

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