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. The project includes an analysis of the deterioration of the already precarious situation of migrants. Moreover, it 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.

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Map, copy editing, leaflet: Aylin Himmetoglu, Magdalena Maier, Abdur Rehman Zafar

Funding: Ministry for Science, Research and the Arts of Baden-Württemberg

Responsible: Franzisca Zanker

Duration: 
2021

Project publications

Further issues in this series

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.