Pandemic (Im)mobility: COVID-19 and Migrant Communities in the Global South
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic migrant communities have become immobile – stuck in the destination countries, or unable to continue their journeys in transit or in origin countries. This project brings together a collection of essays that seek to spell out how migrant communities in the Global South, namely in Mexico, Nepal, Qatar, and Zimbabwe, have been affected by, and reacted to the pandemic.
Inspired by a mobility justice approach, we speak to the (changing) power relations inherent to mobility, as well as the intersectional nature of migration with inequalities mapped along a global geography of race and class, amongst others. We do this by acknowledging that long before COVID-19, migration and mobility were intrinsically embedded into a hierarchical globalized regime of asymmetric power, that largely determines who can move and under what conditions. The essays aim to not only re-centre the Global South, but also to view these cases as relational to each other and to the state of global affairs.
An introductory essay offers an analytical framework to look at the effect of COVID-19 on the (im)mobility on migrant communities. This includes an analysis of the deterioration of the already precarious situation of migrants. Moreover, the framework considers in what way the pandemic has become an opportunity for exclusion often through discursive othering. Measures of control against migrants in the name of public health are also deliberated before concluding on how migrants cope with state-prescribed rules and borders and to what extent this leads to acts of resistance.
Zahra Babar is Associate Director for Research at CIRS at Georgetown University in Qatar. Previously, she has served with the International Labor Organization and the United Nations Development Program. Her current research interests include rural development, migration and labor policies, and citizenship in the Persian Gulf states.
Anita Ghimire is a research director at the Nepal Institute for Social and Environmental Research. She works on migration and mobility, social norms and gender, adolescents and young people, and social protection. She has worked with DFID, UNICEF, IOM, USAID and World Bank.
Dilshad Muhammadis ALMA Fellow at Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institute (ABI) in Freiburg, Germany. His doctoral dissertation studies the local governance of forced migration in Turkey. His broader research interests also include ethnic nationalism, and state-formation with regional focus on Turkey and Syria.
Joyce Takaindisa is a scholar of migration and displacement. She recently completed her PhD at the African Centre for Migration Society, the Wits University. Her research interests are migration and displacement in Africa with particular focus on internal displacement and refugees in Zimbabwe.
Luisa Gabriela Morales Vega is a professor at the Autonomous University of Mexico State, and a member of the Research in Progress Seminar on Critical Legal Studies and Migration at the National University of Mexico. Her current research interests are Latin-American decolonial studies; constitutional critical theories and forced migration among Central America, Mexico and the US.
Franzisca Zanker is a senior researcher at the Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institute (ABI) in Freiburg, Germany, where she heads the research cluster on “Patterns of (Forced) Migration.” Her research interests include migration and refugee governance, peacebuilding and civil society.
Funding: Ministry for Science, Research and the Arts of Baden-Württemberg
Photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash; Map, copy editing, leaflet: Aylin Himmetoglu, Magdalena Maier, Abdur Rehman Zafar
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic migrant communities have become immobile–stuck in the destination countries, or unable to continue their journeys in transit or in origin countries. This project brings together a collection of essays that seek to spell out how migrant communities in the Global South, namely in Mexico, Nepal, Qatar and Zimbabwe, have been affected by, and reacted to the pandemic.
In this article, the author gives an example for how particular policies during COVID19 in Qatar have affected the lives of migrants there, and in their countries of origin. Originally aimed at improving the conditions of migrant communities in Qatar, the Wage Protection System has further restricted the mobility of these communities.
COVID-19’s impact on migrants has now been well noted in Nepal, as well. This article starts with a discussion about whether/how the ongoing pandemic has altered trajectories and ambitions of current and aspiring migrants and their spouses who remain in Nepal. It then reflects on the pre-COVID migration policies of Nepal and analyses what policy/programme shifts might be needed to address the new situation.
In this article, the author shows how the Pandemic aggravated the already precarious conditions of migrants. When the Pandemic started in Mexico, the authorities were already upgrading their migration control measurements on several levels. Deeper coordination with the Trump Administration, suspension of asylum processes in the USA, militarization of the migration management and bureaucratic institutions in Mexico, have all been taking place simultaneously by March 2020.
For years, migrants from Zimbabwe have been undergoing xenophobic policies and discourses in South Africa and Botswana. This article demonstrates how the South African government has utilized the pandemic to further feed into these policies and discourses. From official statements to social media campaigns, the pandemic has been used as an opportunity for South Africa first discourse to grow and “coronationalism” to emerge, while depicting migrant communities, especially from Zimbabwe, as a risk to the public health.