Public health and migration: from the Postcolonial era to COVID-19

By Ranabir Samaddar, Distinguished Chair in Migration and Forced Migration Studies, Calcutta Research Group


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.

Photo: Juan Alberto Casado, Shutterstock

I wrote The Postcolonial Age of Migration in 2016-2019. It came out just two months ago as the pandemic continued (and continues) to rage in India and around the world. Global mobility came to a screeching halt and I have not yet seen the book in print. Locked down in my house and aware that the book had come out, I was driven to reflect on what I had written: did I do justice to our age, which I had described as the postcolonial age of migration? The book time and again goes back to colonial histories of war, plunder, changes in land use pattern, peasant dispossession, primitive accumulation, and their continuities in our time. Against this backdrop, the book discusses how the colonial practices of violence and border building are being reproduced today on a global scale. Wars, famines, and ecological changes are major driving factors behind migration and forced migration flows today. They also influence patterns of labour mobility. Yet as I reflected, the overwhelming reality of the COVID-19 pandemic brought home the realisation that the book does not account for epidemiological disasters as an integral part of the colonial history of migration and the postcolonial age of migration. The absence of any concern for migrant workers and refugees in public health structures should have been discussed. The book speaks of refugees’ health concerns in camps, yet the broader perspective of migrants and public health is absent.

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We need a more globalised response to pandemics for immigrant integration

By Tahseen Shams, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that what happens in a faraway land does not stop at its borders but can produce domino effects forceful enough to lock down the entire world. How have we as a globalised society responded to this moment with regards to immigrant integration?

Not well. Immigrants, long singled-out as disease carriers, are again being blamed for the world’s epidemic. Because the Coronavirus originated in China, xenophobia has now turned its gaze on those perceived as Asian immigrants. Pre-existing anti-Chinese racism, for instance, has spiked in the United States even though the virus that led to the outbreak in New York, which has the largest U.S. death toll, came from Europe. Anti-immigrant xenophobia has risen in general despite immigrants comprising the bulk of our essential workforce. Right-wing advocates, based on what could only be described as poorly disguised racism, are using the pandemic as evidence of the dangers of immigration. Their fearmongering taps into the public’s fears and suspicion towards “foreigners”—a label that never seems to detach itself from immigrants and their descendants. Social media, fake news, and political discourse are also helping to depict immigrants as foreigners who bring dangers from faraway lands into our country.

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Migration et travail en Suisse: pour une gouvernance partagée entre le public et le privé

Par Marco Taddei, Union patronale Suisse

Dans la période difficile que nous traversons, un défi majeur se présente à nous : l’impact de la crise du COVID-19 sur les entreprises. Le Coronavirus marque le retour des frontières dans le monde. La tentation du repli national est forte. Et la Suisse n’y échappe pas. Pendant plusieurs semaines, nos frontières, terrestres et aériennes, ont été fermées. Cependant, avec plus de 30 000 frontaliers français travaillant dans le domaine de la santé en Suisse, il s’agit justement de l’ouverture de notre marché du travail qui s’est révélée être un atout précieux. En cette période de crise sanitaire, que feraient nos hôpitaux et nos cliniques sans cette main-d’œuvre?

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The potential of migration for development in Afghanistan

By Nassim Majidi, Founder and Director, Samuel Hall

A family in Sheberghan, Afghanistan. Photo: Mustafa Olgun / Shutterstock.com

Countries in Asia are at different stages of harnessing the potential of migration for development. At one end, there is the case of the Philippines, where international migration is central to domestic social and economic development. At the other end of the spectrum is Afghanistan, where much of the conversation has narrowly focused on forced migration, return and reintegration, missing out on the potential of migration for development. Yet the migration and development dialogue in Afghanistan should be a priority, at a time when COVID-19 is leading the country into an economic recession. Experts have so far provided informal estimates that up to 80% of the Afghan population may end up under the poverty line due to COVID-19, with dire consequences for food security and overall wellbeing.

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How COVID-19 is affecting Egypt’s migrants and refugees

By the Centre for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS), the American University in Cairo (AUC)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.
This blog is also a part of a thread looking more specifically at the impacts of and responses to the COVID-19 crisis on migration and developing countries.


Egypt-covid-19Egypt has one of the highest numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the African continent and as of August 5th, reported 94,875 cases, 4,930 deaths, and 47,182 recoveries. To curb the spread of the virus, borders and entry and exit pathways quickly closed in March, as international airports shut down to most air traffic, as did the land border crossing with Sudan. Since then Cairo International airport has re-opened as of July 1st. Egypt is a country of 100 million people with around 259,900 refugees and asylum-seekers officially registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It also hosts an unspecified large number of unregistered asylum-seekers and refugees. Many of these refugees see Egypt as a transit country until they have the means to make an onward journey or to be resettled in the EU, US, Australia, or Canada. However, many of them end up staying in Egypt for years, contributing to the local economy. One impact of COVID-19 is that many of those waiting to be resettled, have now been left in limbo in their country of asylum. While the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR recently announced the re-opening of international resettlement, many travel restrictions remain in place.

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COVID-19 crisis: Why we must prioritise mental health of the world’s displaced

By Shaifali Sandhya, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Care Family Consultation


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Deprsession-shutterstock_332939864The modern world is in an unprecedented situation. In the last decade, the global population of the forcibly displaced has swelled to 70.8 million; with the advent of COVID-19, its numbers are expected to soar as a staggering number of refugee and asylum-seeker families find themselves further displaced by fear of disease, food insecurity and by the pressures of collapsing national economies. In many countries displaced communities’ access to labour markets is limited to the informal market, and equally vulnerable will be nations’ shadow workers – garbage workers, prostitutes, domestic help, garment makers, and gig workers. Faced with an economic crisis of cataclysmic proportions, economists and political leaders will be tempted to focus solely on the physical and economic facets of the current crisis.  But if we want to make it through this crisis, that won’t be enough.  In addition to financial and physical wellbeing we will need to recognize and address mental health around the world and at every level of society, especially of its displaced communities. We are at best, unprepared for the worst; for both OECD and developing countries, we need to provide tailored mental health treatment to those who need it in the communities they live in. Continue reading

COVID-19 : conséquences pour les migrations internationales et le développement

Par Jason Gagnon, Économiste du développement, Centre de développement de l’OCDE


Ce blog fait partie d’une série sur la lutte contre le COVID-19 dans les pays en voie de développement. Visitez la page dédiée de l’OCDE pour accéder aux données, analyses et recommandations de l’OCDE sur les impacts sanitaires, économiques, financiers et sociétaux de COVID-19 dans le monde.


Immigration-coronavirus

(Read this blog in English)

Bien que la pandémie de COVID-19 ne soit pas un problème de migration, elle est perçue et gérée comme tel. Le discours exploitant la peur face à la crise pourrait donner de l’espace aux politiques structurelles anti-migration. Ce qui nuirait aux droits et à la santé des migrants, et à leur impact positif sur le développement : en 2017, environ 258 millions de migrants internationaux ont comblé les pénuries de main-d’œuvre et contribué au transfert de compétences, de biens et de services indispensables dans le monde entier.

Nous avons fait des progrès remarquables pour renforcer la gouvernance des migrations. Mais si les droits des migrants ne sont pas protégés face à la crise du Covid-19 à court et à long terme, les avancées pourraient être réduites, mettant les migrants et leurs familles, ainsi que certains des fondements de notre économie mondiale, en danger. Continue reading

COVID-19: consequences for international migration and development

By Jason Gagnon, Development economist, OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


Immigration-coronavirus

(Lisez ce blog en français)

While the COVID-19 pandemic is not a migration issue, it is being viewed and managed as one. Fear-exploiting rhetoric around the crisis could provide the political space to push structural anti-migration policies through. This would be detrimental to the rights and health of migrants, and the positive impact migrants have on development – in 2017, an estimated 258 million international migrants filled labour shortages and contributed to transferring much needed skills, goods and services around the globe.

We have made remarkable strides to strengthen migration governance but if migrants’ rights are not protected in the short and long-term response to the COVID-19 crisis, progress could unravel, putting migrants and their families, as well as some of the foundations of our global economy at risk. Continue reading

Five Takeaways on Migration and Development

By Jason Gagnon, Development economist, OECD Development Centre

migration

Migration can lead to important gains for migrants, for their countries of origin and their destination. But this can only happen if migration happens under the right conditions. Destination and origin countries increasingly face common global challenges such as climate change, new technologies and long term changes in social behaviour. Furthermore, developing countries often have to manage and integrate migrant influxes themselves. All of this in a current state of an increasingly negative narrative surrounding migration. So how can migration be better managed? And what is the state of migration governance today? In between the first ever annual UN migration network meeting, and the first Global Refugee Forum (GRF), the OECD Development Centre held a debate – the Policy Dialogue on Migration and Development (PDMD) – with major players, governments, experts and policy-makers looking at the links between migration and development across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Continue reading

Social protection and risk: the ultimate root cause of migration?

By Jason Gagnon, Development economist / PGD coordinator, OECD Development Centre and Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Senior Research Fellow, Overseas Development Institute
 

Social-protection-women-cash-2
Receiving cash transfers in Freetown, Sierra Leone (photo: Dominic Chavez/World Bank)

According to recent estimates, 258 million people in the world were living outside of their country of birth in 2017, up from a total of 161 million in 1990. That represents an increase of 60%. Under different circumstances, most migrants would never migrate in the first place; they would choose to stay close to their family and friends, and the food, music and culture they cherish. Migration – in these cases – is the consequence of something gone wrong.

So why do they leave? Poverty and lack of opportunities for a better future are the typical culprits. But it’s more complicated than that.

Risk is another factor that pushes many people to migrate. The mere risk of falling (back) into poverty can motivate migration. Indeed, migration theory has long described migration as a coping strategy to deal with risk. Empirical evidence confirms this. A 2016 qualitative study on Bolivia found that (internal) migration was a typical response by rural households in response to risks related to land access, insufficient work opportunities and low agricultural productivity. More evidence (on China) suggests that attitude towards risk can even determine who migrates from within the household. Continue reading