Geneva: Travel restrictions during the covid-19 pandemic have been particularly hard on refugees and migrants who move out of necessity, according to a report published by the International Organization of Migration (IOM) on Thursday.
According to the report, the first year of the pandemic saw more than 111,000 travel restrictions and border closures around the world at their peak in December.
These measures have thwarted many people’s ability to pursue migration as a tool to escape conflict, economic collapse, environmental disaster and other crises.
"The covid-19 pandemic has gravely impacted global mobility, stranding millions of people, migrant labourers, family members or international students overseas," said IOM Director General António Vitorino in a press release issued o Thursday,
"This report draws out these dynamics over the course of 2020 and highlights the ways governments are attempting to restart mobility in 2021 and beyondm" he stated.
In mid-July, nearly three million people were stranded, sometimes without access to consular assistance, nor the means to meet their basic needs.
Border closures also prevented displaced people from seeking refuge, but not business travellers, who have continued to move fairly freely, including through agreed green lanes, such as the one between Singapore and Malaysia.
By contrast, those who moved out of necessity - such as migrant workers and refugees – have had to absorb expensive quarantine and self-isolation costs.
This inequality is even more likely if travel is allowed for anyone who has been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19, or for those with access to digital health records – an impossibility for many migrants.
Frontier lockdowns also reduced options for those living in overcrowded camps with high coronavirus infection rates in Bangladesh and Greece, IOM’s report indicated.
In South America, meanwhile, many displaced Venezuelans in Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Brazil, lost their livelihoods and some have sought to return home – including by enlisting the services of smugglers.