Policy Brief: COVID-19 and People on the Move – June 2020

Authored by: United Nations

Categories: Global Public Health
Sub-Categories: COVID-19, Economic Participation, Migration, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
Year: 2020
Citation: “Policy Brief: COVID-19 and People on the Move - June 2020.” United Nations, June 2020.

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Executive Summary

COVID-19 leaves few lives and places untouched. But its impact is harshest for those groups who were already in vulnerable situations before the crisis. This is particularly true for many people on the move, such as migrants in irregular situations, migrant workers with precarious livelihoods, or working in the informal economy, victims of trafficking in persons as well as people fleeing their homes because of persecution, war, violence, human rights violations or disaster, whether within their own countries — internally displaced persons (IDPs) — or across international borders — refugees and asylum-seekers.

Against this background, the COVID-19 crisis presents us with an opportunity to reimagine human mobility for the benefit of all while advancing our central commitment of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind. In the pursuit of this objective, this Policy Brief offers four basic tenets to guide our collective response:

  1. Exclusion is costly in the long-run whereas inclusion pays off for everyone: Exclusion of people on the move is the very same reason they are among the most vulnerable to this pandemic today. Only an inclusive public health and socio-economic response will help us suppress the virus, restart our economies and stay on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.
  2. The response to COVID-19 and protecting the human rights of people on the move are not mutually exclusive: COVID-19 has not stopped people from fleeing violence or persecution. Many countries have shown that travel restrictions and border control measures can and should be safely implemented in full respect of the rights of people on the move.
  3. No-one is safe until everyone is safe: We cannot afford to leave anyone behind in our response and recovery efforts, especially those people on the move who were already most vulnerable before the crisis. Lifesaving humanitarian assistance, social services and learning solutions must remain accessible to people on the move. For all of us to be safe, diagnostics, treatment and vaccines must be universally accessible, without discrimination based on migration status.
  4. People on the move are part of the solution: The best way to recognize the important contribution made by people on the move to our societies during this crisis is to remove barriers that inhibit their full potential. This means facilitating the recognition and accreditation of their qualifications, exploring various models of regularisation pathways for migrants in irregular situations and reducing transaction costs for remittances.

There are encouraging steps already taken by many governments in this direction, some of which are highlighted in this Brief. The four basic tenets offered by this Brief are underpinned by our collective commitment to ensure that the responsibility for protecting the world’s refugees is equitably shared and that human mobility remains safe, inclusive, and respects international human rights and refugee law, as envisaged not least by the Global Compacts on Refugees and for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration. They also reinforce the notion that no one country can fight the virus alone and no one country can manage migration alone.

But together, we can do both: contain the virus’s spread, buffer its impact on livelihoods and communities and recover better.