Dec 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

COVID-19 "radically altered mobility" globally, UN says

Migrants continue to wait at a closed area allocated by Belarusian government the Belarusian-Polish border in Grodno, Belarus on December 01, 2021.

Migrants wait at a closed area allocated by Belarusian government the Belarusian-Polish border in Grodno, Belarus on December 1, 2021. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has "radically altered mobility" worldwide, the United Nations migration agency said in its World Migration Report 2022 released Wednesday.

The big picture: The scale of international migration increased the last two years, though at a reduced rate because of the pandemic. At the same time, there was also an increase in displacement due to disasters, conflict and violence, according to the the International Organization for Migration.

  • "We are witnessing a paradox not seen before in human history," the agency's Director General António Vitorino said in a statement.
  • "While billions of people have been effectively grounded by COVID-19, tens of millions of others have been displaced within their own countries," Vitorino said.

Driving the news: Conflict in Syria, Yemen, Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan, in addition to "severe economic and political instability" in Venezuela and Afghanistan, led to the displacement of millions of people, according to the UN agency, which compiled its report from a range of data on the latest trends of human movement.

  • Large-scale displacements were also caused by climate- and weather-related disasters in many parts of the world in 2020 and 2021, including in China, the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, the U.S. and Haiti.
  • The number of international migrants in 2020 reached about 281 million — comprising 3.6% of the world's population — compared to 272 million in 2019, according to AP.
  • International remittances declined to $702 billion in 2020, compared to $719 in 2019.

What they're saying: "The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered immobility worldwide to an extent unseen in recent history, slowing the pace of human mobility and migration," Ugochi Daniels, IOM’s deputy director-general for operations said, per AP.

  • "The pandemic is estimated to have negatively impacted the total growth of international migrants by 2 million."
  • The agency also warned that "stereotyped and negative images of migrants perpetuate a discourse of migration as an 'invasion' or a 'burden,' which exacerbates prejudice and hostile attitudes. These views have been linked to the rise in anti-immigrant political parties and the intensification of anti-immigrant rhetoric in politics."

Go deeper: The future will depend on letting people move

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