EU Migration and Mobility: The Impact of Covid-19 

We are pleased to announce the release of an e-briefing on migration and mobility in the European Union.

Written by Dr. Nevena Nancheva, a Senior Lecturer at Kingston University, London, this brief documents how those in the most precarious positions had their situations exacerbated by policy choices made in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

An audio version is available here

This e-briefing highlights the following: 

  • Migration and mobility are intrinsically linked to democracy in the European Union (EU) as they apply, in varying ways, to EU citizens and denizens and demarcate a problematic boundary between a presumed European demos and third-country nationals. 
  • EU migration and mobility policies concern different domains (non-EU nationals and EU citizens, respectively) and have been characterised by numerous pressures, priorities, and outcomes in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • The common feature of the developments across the two domains has been the exacerbation of existing vulnerabilities both in EU policies and among the migrant populations concerned. 
  • A visible characteristic of the EU response across the domains of migration and mobility has been an intersection between the increased relevance of national politics and a concerted effort to produce an integrated supranational response.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic may provide useful impetus and context for integration in the domains of migration and mobility, as illustrated currently by the ‘Team Europe’ agenda, and previously by the 2015 migration policy crisis, and thus may have direct implications on democratic processes in the EU. 

Surmising her findings Dr. Nevena Nancheva explains that: 

‘As the immediate measures adopted to contain the spread of the virus were suspension of public services, bans on travel, closure of borders, and constraints on sectors employing large numbers of (EU and non-EU) migrants and asylum-seekers, such migrants and mobile EU citizens saw themselves disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and their vulnerabilities exacerbated.’

Offering the potential that learning points can be gleaned from the period since Spring 2020, she also notes that:

‘Reflecting the impact of a previous crisis (the EU migration policy crisis in 2015), the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the benefits of producing common integrated policies and projecting a unified front externally.’

Dr Nevena Nancheva

As Associate Professor Radu Cinpoes, Co-Investigator for the The Covid-19 and Democracy Project, notes:

‘The global Covid-19 pandemic has exposed these tensions, not only in terms of how they shaped the EU response in the area of health, but also in terms of how the EU distinguishes between internal and the external dimensions and between the movement of EU citizens (mobility) on the one hand, and that of third-country nationals (migration).’

Speaking to the work of Dr Nevena Nancheva he highlights that:

‘The important policy analysis in her e-briefing picks up on these dimensions in a way that highlights the fact that – despite the difference of ‘mobility’ compared to ‘migration’, one unifying outcome is the fact that the pandemic revealed deep inequalities and exacerbated the vulnerability of some categories of people who were already in a weak position.’

Concluding that:

‘Overall, Nevena Nancheva shows in this report that crisis situations (such as the refugee crisis in 2015 and the Covid-19 crisis now) reveal inconsistencies in the EU’s application of its policies with regards to migration and mobility, with negative consequences to already vulnerable categories of people. At the same time, such crisis has the potential to trigger more integrated responses in the long term.’

Contact Dr Nevena Nancheva on:

November, 2021