“Migration and pandemics: spaces of solidarity and spaces of exception”, Anna Triandafyllidou (RSCAS-EUI, Italy)

During 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world, we have witnessed countries making unprecedented decisions, restricting international travel and closing borders but also chartering fights to bring in migrant workers employed in essential sectors. While important (internal) travel restrictions were frst implemented by China in late February 2020 on the Chinese New Year holiday, the relevance of borders in relation to controlling the pandemic became internationally visible when the United States banned EU citizens from entering the country on 14 March 2020 as Covid-19 cases and victims sharply rose in Italy and a number of other European countries. A sweeping closure of the EU external borders to all non-EU citizens was announced on 17 March 2020 – a rare occasion where EU citizenship had a tangible effect on all EU citizens’ livelihoods without being mediated by their national citizenship. That closure confirmed that EU citizens and their national governments felt they were closer together and in solidarity and interdependence under this pandemic although intra-EU border closures followed. Indeed, March 2020 saw the closure of borders between countries with very long and strong socio-economic and political ties such as Canada and the US (a closure that is still effective at the time of writing in November 2020), or member states of the European Union with one another. Regional trade and migration within west Africa were also interrupted abruptly when, for instance, Nigeria closed its borders on 23 March after recording its first death from the virus. And while it was initially hoped that the summer of 2021 will bring not only temporary relief but also a way out of the pandemic, it has since become clear that 2020–2021 will be marked with at least selective border closures and migration and mobility restrictions. The wider impact of the pandemic on society and the economy will be long lasting and global.

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