The Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Refugees and Migrants

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Irregular and Infected: Covid-19, Ebola, and the Securitization of Migration to Europe, Eugenio Cusumano, Visiting Fellow, RSCAS

By combining a textual and visual analysis of Italian, Spanish and Maltese newspaper articles published between 2013 and 2020, we show that infectious diseases are a crucial discursive frame underlying the securitization of irregular migration to Europe. Textual and visual discourses securitizing migrants as a health threat skyrocketed after the COVID-19 outbreak, but were already prominent since the 2014 Ebola epidemic. The pervasiveness of these discourses in both conservative and progressive papers shows that narratives framing migrants as both “at risk” and “a risk” do not solely coexist, but are mutually reinforcing: in the context of global health crises, migrants are framed as a risk precisely because of their vulnerability, which may turn their bodies into ideal carriers of pathogens.

Citizenship in Times of Emergency: Explaining Uneven Access to Public Protection During the Covid-19 Pandemic, Lorenzo Piccoli, Research Fellow, MPC, RSCAS, EUI

Recent scholarship on citizenship has focused on grand transformations over long periods of time. However, in times of emergency – armed conflicts, economic recessions, environmental disasters, and pandemics – governments may quickly and substantially reassess whom they wish to protect, therefore rapidly expanding or contracting rights that are attached to different legal statuses. These shocks affect how governments and citizens interact, leading to a reconsideration of whether national residents should be treated differently than immigrant populations. This paper proposes a theoretical breakdown of whether nationality has been used to discriminate provision of public service during the Covid-19 pandemic. Drawing upon a repository of emergency welfare measures introduced during the pandemic to mitigate the negative social effects, it illustrates how the pandemic can trigger both more inclusive and more restrictive strategies of public service delivery. The argument is that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated pre-existing trends: in communities that have not experienced a relative decline of the liberal democratic order in recent years, the policy response toward migrant populations has been inclusive towards both immigrant and emigrant populations. Conversely, those communities whose liberal and democratic institutions were already being weakened by populist governments have taken more restrictive measures towards international migrants.

The psychosocial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on refugees and migrants worldwide, Eva Spiritus-Beerden, PhD Researcher, Ghent University

Eva Spiritus-Beerden will present research on the psychosocial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on refugees and migrants worldwide, using an online survey Apart Together survey by the World Health Organisation. This report looks at the ways in which the pandemic has hit the lives of refugees and migrants. It takes the perspective of their own lived experiences during the COVID 19 crisis. There is clear evidence that even in more normal times their access to health and health services is often severely compromised, both by the organization of the health system and by the social setting in which they live. Ultimately, the survey reported in this publication is an inquiry into the right to health for refugees and migrants.