This paper takes stock of the momentous transformations in bordering practices, migration and global mobility that have been sparked by the new coronavirus pandemic, and seeks to forge a progressive agenda for research and nongovernmental practice in this context. Focusing on Europe, it argues that states have conflated the “war on the virus” with the “war on migrants” and imposed drastic new restrictions on international mobility. What has long been referred to as a “global apartheid” which in effect uses the category of citizenship to police (im)mobility according to global geographies of race and class, is being supplemented by a “sanitary apartheid” through which states aim to keep virus-free “bubbles” apart from populations designated as contagious. Illegalised migrants will however continue to cross borders in search of protection and a better life with or without the approval of states. It is only by recognising migrants’ right to move that one may implement measures to mitigate the risks of contagion so as to protect migrants and sedentary populations alike. At the same time, the excessive mobility of the privileged through air travel that has been a major factor in spreading the virus and contributes to ecological destruction should also be limited. Re-thinking the politics of (im)mobility in the context of the pandemic must be part of the process of transformation towards a more just and sustainable world.
Read the associated blog post: De-confine Borders: Towards a Politics of Freedom of Movement in the Time of the Pandemic