A space to examine the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic raises for vulnerable residents and workers at and within national borders. We will also shine a spotlight on resilience and solidarity across those frontiers as well as across boundaries of ethnicity, gender, age and class.
As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies around the world, we are witnessing countries making unprecedented decisions to close borders to non-citizens. And as days pass, national borders have become more visible and less permeable than ever.
The concern that travellers increase the risk of COVID-19 contagion is legitimate. However, border closures do not keep everyone out – only those who are not citizens (and not permanent residents in some countries). In other words, states weigh their obligation towards solidarity and protection of citizens above the risk that they may be carrying the virus. By contrast, outsiders – temporary residents or visitors – are banned from entry, as are asylum-seekers or ‘irregular’ migrants.
The issues are the same: it is a balance between risk on one hand, and belonging and solidarity, on the other. They are simply weighted differently for citizens and non-citizens. In addition, several countries are imposing extensive lockdowns, allowing only ‘essential’ workers to circulate within the country as their jobs are crucial to public health, social protection and ensuring the supply of essential goods.
It may seem a paradox but many of these essential workers are those kept outside the borders – the newcomers, the asylum seekers. These people who are employed disproportionately in agriculture, as nurses and old people’s carers, as employees in food retail chains and warehouses, and in environmental services, to name only a few sectors.
This project discusses the challenges that the pandemic raises at the border and within society, for these vulnerable categories of residents and workers. It also aims to showcase examples of resilience and of solidarity across territorial borders and across boundaries of ethnicity, gender, age and class.
This project is in partnership with Ryerson University's Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration