How COVID-19 is Affecting Migration?

Sümeyra Tahta


Throughout history, migration has always been. The history of migration is as old as human history. The first known migrations in the history of international migration were made approximately 150 thousand years before the African continent [1]. These migrations at first maintained its importance with its continuity. In addition, migrations have changed direction with the influence of the climate as well as being on the search for new safe places, preventing starvation, preventing clashes among tribes. However, sometimes illnesses have also affected migration. Today, the situation is a little different, that there is an epidemic called COVID 19 in the world, and many of the immigrants are stuck between state borders and epidemic disease. This allowed us to think about COVID 19 and once again about the prominent state borders. How should we learn from COVID 19? In this study, I will focus on the impact of COVID 19 on immigrants and the state borders, but in my study, I will try to discuss the effects of COVID 19 regionally and on the effect of immigrants in a way that will deal with public policies.

Key words: Covid 19, Migrants, Refugees, State, State Borders


To begin with, with the Westphalian order, Europe made the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times. Concepts such as sovereignty, boundaries, non-involvement in another state and embassy, which we frequently use today, have been the benefits of the Westphalian order. When we consider these concepts collectively, we find the nation-state.[2] However, the fact that a territorial (national) state, whose borders are protected by certain treaties, has absolute domination within its borders, has led to the concept of sovereignty in the international literature. For all these reasons, state borders have remained important until today. The state of immigrants has always made us think since the state borders existed. Immigrants have been trump cards for states, including international politics, foreign policy and the domestic policy. Migration has a major impact on a state’s demography, culture, economy, and policy. Immigration control policy is an important factor in determining immigration patterns: people who want to immigrate to industrialized countries for economic or political reasons and absolutely limited opportunities to do so is mainly the immigration policy that determines the scope of global migration. However, the immigration policy consists of two parts: the immigration control policy or immigration legislation, that is, the rules and procedures for the selection and acceptance of foreign citizens, and immigration policy, that is, the conditions provided to settled immigrants. [3]

With the spread of the epidemic of COVID 19 worldwide, governments are in a hurry and started to protect themselves. While many measures have been taken to combat the epidemic, there is one thing that has been ignored: the health of immigrants. Immigrants often get stuck in the state border and immigrants in the Greece-Turkey border is an example of this. In this example, The Ministry of Migration announced that this decision was taken on Saturday evening when symptoms of coronavirus were seen in an 53-year-old Afghan citizen.[4] Migrants health more important than us because they are non-protect by others. Now i want to examine the regional to regional COVID 19, migration and state borders.

Asia and The Pacific

When starting this region, International Organization of Migration’ (IOM), COVID 19 Situation Report[5] is so vital for migration and migrants health. According to this report, there are 163,000 cases and more than 7,000 death reported by IOM stuff. Along with the immediate health risks of COVID-19, it poses significant socio-economic and protection challenges. Implementing community health measures such as outbreaks and crashes across the region and social distance has led to more than one collective immigrant movement that exacerbates the outbreak of the individual and society and potentially increases more transfers. Also, over 20 IOM missions in Asia-Pacific are actively engaging with national and sub-national response and coordination mechanisms partnering with the government, civil society, NGOs and UN agencies.

There are different cases about migrant workers in Kashmir. With the increasing COVID 19 cases, migrant workers want to help Indian government.[6] With COVID 19, nation-state and citizenship rhetoric became more prominent. In addition, immigrants represent the borders of states today. With the epidemic, states seem to have stepped into anti-globalization somewhere by closing their borders and taking many similar measures. What should be considered, when the globalization and nation-state discourse changes at the end of the epidemic, what will be the situation of these immigrants that make up the border of states?

Mobility of migrants further complicates nation-state-based approaches to tackling this global public health crisis. Because immigrants are not settled temporarily or permanently in one country: many immigrants try to cross borders everyday either from their home countries to neighboring countries or by leaving their home country completely. It should be noted that migrant workers in Asia and The Pasific region they want to translate citizenship rhetoric in their favor.[7] They rebelled against the government for their borderline work in fear of starvation.

Africa and the Middle East

One of the regions where refugees and immigrants stand out as political discourses is Africa and the Middle East. In policies implemented by policy makers, refugees face the risk of COVID 19 more. One of the related cases is in Lebanon, but Syrian refugees face fear of deportation here. Both for themselves and for Syrian refugees, they have difficulty with regard to their region of COVID 19. The government of Syria has stipulated all emergency response must go through its ministries. But this limits what the WHO can do in the country and gives Syrian authorities the ability to block ‘cross-line aid’ which goes from government-controlled to non-government areas.[8] Due to the limited number of incoming tests and the priority given to their citizens, once again the importance of state borders, the emphasis on nation-state and the refugees behind the borders came to the fore.

However, while governments take precautions against the threat of the epidemic (working conditions, allocated budgets), migrant workers are threatened both economically and healthly because they are stateless. One of the exemplary cases related to this is domestic workers. While domestic workers are working more (working hours), they can be exploited by employers both as labor and sexually, even if the government gives certain permits. Migrant workers often face poor working conditions. Governments have a big role with the COVID 19 pandemic. Penal proceedings may be imposed on domestic workers going out, with steps taken to protect migrants (to improve working conditions or life conditions).[9]

With the closure of one of the important borders, many immigrant groups remain in unhealthy conditions in public areas, but also put NGOs in the region in a difficult situation. With a possible outbreak among immigrant groups, the health of both the people of the region and the immigrants are endangered. As already known, they are also facing the Ebola virus, including the African region.

 Possible COVID 19 cases, even if security is provided, deployments in areas where immigrants are staying are getting difficult with government restrictions.[10]

Americas and The Caribbean

In the Americas and the Caribbean region, particularly in Latin America (Venezuela, Mexico), refugees are at high risk of COVID 19 danger. According to the latest COVID 19 cases, the death rate in the USA is quite high, so Venezuelan immigrants are at risk from pandemics. The needs and health checks of migrants are important in this regard. Financial support should be provided in the region and governments have a great responsibility in preventing the system from being blocked. Support is needed in Latin America and the Caribbean, due to the lack of political stability and immigration in the region. Immigrants on the border need clean water, soap and health checks. The IOM is conducting a comprehensive study.[11]

If governments and actors in the region are unable to provide the necessary controls and interventions due to borders, immigrants and refugees may be accused of the possibility of COVID 19 fluctuating and spreading. Respiratory equipment may be necessary for refugees in the event that a possible COVID 19 is spread due to a lack of health systems, because refugees who have escaped from violence and conflict in the region are at risk in their search for new places. Governments can allocate budgets for their own people, but can also budget for refugees at the borders, especially during the pandemic period.


In the European continent, where the COVID 19 pandemic causes the most deaths, the proportion of immigrants and refugees is very high. However, most diasporas are in Europe. While the governments warn the public due to the high risk of deaths and outbreaks in the region, various travel bans, especially curfews, come. Governments warn not to go out in this region, which is experiencing self isolation and voluntary quarantine processes. Along with the travel restrictions, the immigrant and refugee group was also affected. Europe, which has not opened its doors to refugees in the context of state borders, has suspended the travel and settlement of immigrants. The UN announced that it has suspended trips, except for emergencies, except for agents.[12] Considering the European region, COVID 19 should not be forced back by fear of contamination or with suspicion.[13]


The pandemic, which has been around the world for the past few months, has prompted us to rethink COVID 19, immigrants and state borders. Globalization has come to a halt with the pandemic in an increasingly globalized world. Although the COVID 19 pandemic is still an ongoing process (data change, updating), terminating it in the short term is dependent on the public’s compliance with these warnings, as well as the social isolation of the public. However, when we consider the migration routes, there is one point that should be emphasized: the health of migrants is the health of the world. Considering that the epidemic has a serious impact, immigrants are of great concern that governments should not ignore immigrants in this process, even though they close the state borders because every immigrant has the right to live (according to human rights) and to benefit from basic needs such as shelter. Even though the level of life of this group, which is in a stateless or forced displacement, is minimal, they are afraid to seek help psychologically. The immigrant group, coming from places where political instability and humanitarian crises are experienced, live in camps on the border in a collective area. Hygiene and health conditions should be improved.[14] If conditions are not improved in the COVID 19 process, xenophobia (discrimination), discrimination in various contexts, and harassment of immigrants may occur in most continents. States should provide refugees and migrants, regardless of their legal status, culturally and linguistically sensitive information about access to healthcare, other services, and how to prevent them from infecting and infecting others, and consider social determinants such as discrimination and guilt.

When this pandemic, which should be mentioned, is over, the world order will not be the same, but globalization will be in a different dimension while the state borders become more important. But the most important thing is that states that care about the health of migrants will be more profitable. Stay at home and stay safe for the health of immigrants, our society and the world.

Sümeyra Tahta

[1] GOLDIN, Ian, Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future, p:22.

[2] ÖZCAN ÖZEL, Suna Merve, Westphalian State System and effects of Modernization on the Great Powers of Traditional World: Empires.

[3] MEYERS, Eytan (200). Theories of International Immigration Policy-A Comparative Analysis. International Migration Review, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Winter), pp. 1245-1282 

[4] INDEPENDENT TURKISH, (April,6,2020. 12:42 PM.), Malasaka refugee camp in Greece was also quarantined (Tweet), https://www.independentturkish.com/node/158591/d%C3%BCnya/yunanistan%E2%80%99da-malasaka-m%C3%BClteci-kamp%C4%B1-da-karantinaya-al%C4%B1nd%C4%B1#.Xon7ZwZkIrg.twitter. Also see: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH, (April, 6, 2020. 1:15 pm.) Second Greek migrant camp under coronavirus lockdown (Tweet), https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/greek-migrant-camp-coronavirus-lockdown-200405181333081.html?taid=5e8a588201cef40001c16c84&utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=twitter.

[5] Examine the: https://www.iom.int/sites/default/files/situation_reports/file/iom_roap_sitrep_covid-19_3.pdf

[6] Examine the: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/22-000-migrant-workers-stuck-in-kashmir-due-to-covid-19/1784952

[7] https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/amid-covid-19-crisis-southeast-asias-migrant-workers-fall-through-the-cracks/

[8] https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/covid-19-impact-refugees-also-political

[9] https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/domestic-workers-middle-east-risk-abuse-covid-19-crisis-200404152201409.html

[10] https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news/2020/04/02/coronavirus-humanitarian-aid-response

[11] https://www.iom.int/news/refugees-and-migrants-venezuela-during-covid-19-crisis-needs-soar-more-inclusive-measures-and

[12] UN News COVID-19: agencies temporarily suspend refugee resettlement travel. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059602 Date: March 17, 2020 Date accessed: March 26, 2020

[13] WHO Report on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region: no public health without refugee and migrant health. World Health Organization, Geneva 2018

[14] Norwegian Refugee Council 10 things you should know about coronavirus and refugees.


Date: 2020, Date accessed: March 26, 2020


GOLDIN, Ian, Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future, p:22.









https://www.nrc.no/news/2020/march/10-things-you-should-know-about-coronavirus-and-refugees/ Date: 2020, Date accessed: March 26, 2020


MEYERS, Eytan (200). Theories of International Immigration Policy-A Comparative Analysis. International Migration Review, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Winter), pp. 1245-1282 

Norwegian Refugee Council 10 things you should know about coronavirus and refugees.

ÖZCAN ÖZEL, Suna Merve, Westphalian State System and effects of Modernization on the Great Powers of Traditional World: Empires.

UN News COVID-19: agencies temporarily suspend refugee resettlement travel. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059602 Date: March 17, 2020 Date accessed: March 26, 2020

WHO Report on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region: no public health without refugee and migrant health. World Health Organization, Geneva 2018

Sümeyra Tahta

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