International politics of migration in times of ‘crisis’ and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

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A new Research Note written by some of the International Politics of Migration, Refugees and Diaspora Working Group members -  Maria Koinova, Franck Düvell, Foteini Kalantzi (IPMRD co-convenor), Sara de Jong, Christian Kaunert (IPMRD co-convenor), and Marianne H Marchand - has been published in Migration Studies in Open Access.

This research note - 'International politics of migration in times of ‘crisis’ and Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic' - is the direct result of two of our working group events - a workshop at Oxford in 2019, and a further online panel during the pandemic in 2020. 

Exploring how the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped trade-offs between securitization of migration, health, and economic concerns in migration governance, the authors argue that the pandemic has exacerbated tendencies for the securitization of migration control beyond reinforcing nation-state borders. These effects include the ramping up of digital controls at borders and increasing racial discrimination against migrants more generally, as well as the emergence of powerful 'riskification' discourses relating to COVID-19. All these restrictions have been occurring in and compounded by a drastic democratic decline in 2020-21, prompting thought on the effects of these trends on migration politics more generally, and whether they might be reversible.


A much-anticipated end of the COVID-19 pandemic is on the horizon. It is important to reflect on the ways in which the pandemic has impacted the international politics of migration and especially on the migration-security nexus, which is still little understood but affecting policies and population movements with future implications. How the pandemic has shaped tradeoffs between securitization of migration, health, and economic concerns in governing migration? What are the new trends emerging from the pandemic on the migration-security nexus? And how can we study these in the coming years? This Research Note features insights from scholars associated with the British International Studies Association’s working group on the ‘International Politics of Migration, Refugees and Diaspora’. They argue that the pandemic has exacerbated tendencies for migration control beyond reinforcing nation-state borders, namely through foregrounding ‘riskification’ of migration discourses and practices, adding to an earlier existing securitization of migration considered as a ‘threat’. Digital controls at borders and beyond were ramped up, as were racial tropes and discrimination against migrants and mobile persons more generally. These trends deepen the restrictions on liberal freedoms during a period of global democratic backsliding, but also trigger a counter-movement where the visibility of migrants as ‘key workers’ and their deservingness in host societies has been enhanced, and diasporas became more connected to their countries of origin. This Research Note finds that enhanced controls, on the one side, and openings for visibility of migrants and transnational connectivity of diasporas, on the other, are worthy to study in the future as political trends per se. Yet, it would be also interesting to study them as interconnected in a dual movement of simultaneous restriction and inclusion, and in an interdependent world where the power of nation-states has been reasserted due to the pandemic, but migrant transnationalism has remained largely intact.

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