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Migration Policy Institute Podcasts

MPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide.

Humanitarian Protection in an Era of Pandemic

The rapid closures of borders around the world have been among the most dramatic migration-related effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 130 countries have introduced entry restrictions at their borders, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates. While these closures have virtually suspended leisure and business travel across the world, the effects are proving even more severe for refugees and migrants fleeing danger. Crossing an international border to a country of safety and filing an asylum claim is no longer possible in many places—a seismic shock to the foundations of a post-World War II international protection system that relies on the goodwill of national governments to grant access to their territory for those in need.

The pandemic has also placed into stark relief the unique vulnerabilities forced migrants now confront in the face of outbreak. The reception facilities where many asylum seekers live while awaiting a verdict on their claim invite outbreaks, even in high-income countries with well-run asylum and reception systems. Infection is likely to spread even more rapidly in severely overcrowded facilities, such as the camps on the Greek islands and informal settlements in Mexican border cities where migrants awaiting U.S. asylum hearings are massed. In developing countries where access to proper health care is limited even for nationals, the consequences of the pandemic could be disastrous for refugees who often live in densely packed housing with poor sanitation. At the same time, the suspension of resettlement operations by IOM and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has closed off a crucial lifeline for the especially vulnerable.

Speakers on this webinar consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected—and perhaps, remade—the global protection systems. Meghan Benton, Director for Research of MPI’s International Program, is joined by MPI colleagues, Kathleen Newland, Hanne Beirens, Sarah Pierce, and Susan Fratzke, for a free-flowing conversation regarding the effects of the pandemic on asylum systems in Europe and North America, as well as those in developing regions, where 85 percent of refugees remain. In addition to considering the immediate effects the crisis has had on national asylum systems and on refugees themselves, the conversation looks ahead and begin to assess the implications for the principle of asylum and access to protection in the future.

View MPI's resources on COVID-19

COVID-19 in Latin America: Tackling Health Care & Other Impacts for Vulnerable Migrant Populations

Governments across Latin America have taken extraordinary mobility-limiting measures in recent days as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge, with important impacts for a region that has seen a massive scale of forced and irregular migration. Most countries in the region have ordered the full closure of their land and sea borders, and imposed stringent air travel restrictions on all foreigners. In addition, government leaders in Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador are among those who have announced countrywide lockdowns and declared states of emergency, ordering the closure of public spaces including businesses, schools, and shelters.

This global public health crisis comes at a critical time for regional mobility and migration. Since 2015, Latin America has experienced unprecedented migration flows, with the exodus of millions from Venezuela. There are major questions about how the pandemic-related preventative measures will impact ongoing migration flows and border communities that depend on cross-border trade and services. And there are significant concerns about how COVID-19 may affect immigrant communities that do not always have access to health services.  At the same time, several governments, such as those in Colombia and Argentina, are looking at creative ways of engaging immigrant health professionals in the effort to combat the spread of the virus.

This Migration Policy Institute webinar brings together public health and migration experts to analyze the impact these preventative measures will have on vulnerable immigrants and refugees in Colombia. The speakers also discuss how policymakers and international organizations can include migrant populations in their emergency response plans.
 
Speakers included:
Iván Darío Gonzalez Ortiz, former Vice Minister and Acting Minister, Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection
Julián A. Fernández Niño, Professor, Department of Public Health, Universidad del Norte (Barranquilla, Colombia)
Christian Krüger, former Director, Migración Colombia
Gladys Sanmiguel, former Secretary of Social Integration for Bogotá, Colombia
 
Moderator: Andrew Selee, President, Migration Policy Institute
 

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