Effect of COVID on international movement

By late April, for the first time in history, every single country had imposed entry restrictions, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Many of those restrictions lasted for weeks or months; dozens were still in place in December. Movement to countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development plunged by 46% over the first six months of the year. International tourism declined by nearly two-thirds over the same period.

The pandemic brought about restrictions at borders that had previously existed mostly on paper, such as within Europe’s Schengen Zone, and between close allies such as the United States and Canada.

Several governments seized on the pandemic to advance longstanding priorities to limit immigration and bolster nationalist agendas. For leaders of countries including the United States, Italy, Hungary, Greece, and Lebanon, the public-health crisis drove the implementation of historic limits on refugee resettlement, pushbacks of asylum seekers at the border, curfews in refugee camps, and the advance of broader anti-migrant rhetoric. Houthi rebels in Yemen allegedly expelled thousands of Ethiopian migrants and sent them to the Saudi border, where they were fired upon. Malaysian authorities raided migrant camps and arrested hundreds. Even while not official policy, the coronavirus outbreak bolstered anti-immigrant narratives in places such as China, while racism against East Asian migrants and their children has been on the rise in the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere.

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