Document Type


Publication Date



COVID-19, International migration


Health Law and Policy | Immigration Law


One measure of how and whether the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes the emerging field of international migration law will be the extent to which transnational civil society and activist movements can counteract the intensification of state border controls that the pandemic has triggered. Before the pandemic, transnational efforts to establish a new normative framework for migration seemed to be accelerating. These efforts included new, if nonbinding, global compacts on refugees and migration, and new, if modest, efforts at facilitating global cooperation, alongside innovative approaches to scholarly engagement. Such developments arguably contributed to an emerging framework for protecting migrants under international law. Has the pandemic defeated this potential? State responses to the pandemic have eschewed multilateralism, brought migration to a near standstill, and ignored well-established human rights obligations.Moreover, states are poised to deploy a range of new border management technologies and even more assertively manage migration in the name of “health proofing” borders. Yet at the same time, some progressive state practices have emerged alongside a call from the UN Secretary-General to “reimagine human mobility for the benefit of all.”3 In this essay, we chart some areas of potentially progressive expansion beyond the status quo, noting not only the substance but also the process by which these norms are emerging.