Mobility in the Time of COVID-19
Human mobility and human rights in the COVID-19 pandemic: Principles of protection for migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons
In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, many States have taken harsh and unprecedented measures against migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons. Actions taken to control and prevent the spread of the virus and to ameliorate the massive harms inflicted by the pandemic must be consistent with established international human rights norms. These norms – including those of non-discrimination, rights to health and to information, due process, and non-return to risks of serious harm – apply to all persons, irrespective of their immigration status.
The following principles derive from international treaties and instruments, customary international law, decisions of UN treaty bodies, and guidelines widely accepted by the international community. They are further informed by decisions of human rights bodies at the regional level and regional inter-State agreements. The principles are offered to inform and guide State action, to assist international organizations, and to provide a basis for advocacy and education.
The fourteen principles are listed below.
Members of the Drafting Committee included: T. Alexander Aleinikoff, Chaloka Beyani, François Crépeau, Joanne Csete, Guy Goodwin-Gill, Walter Kaelin, Ian Kysel, Jane McAdam, Chidi Anselm Odinkalu, Anna Shea, Leah Zamore, and Monette Zard.
Catherine McGahan (Associate Director, Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, The New School) and Sarah Guyer (Teaching Assistant, Program on Forced Migration and Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University) provided technical and editorial assistance.
State policies responding to COVID-19 must guarantee equal and non-discriminatory treatment of all persons, irrespective of their immigration and citizenship status or the fact of their displacement.
States must respect the right to health of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons, including by ensuring that the provision of essential medicines, prevention, and treatment are provided in a non-discriminatory manner.
States should ensure that neither their actions nor the actions of others stigmatize or incite violence against persons on account of their actual or perceived health status, in particular when such stigmatization is linked to nationality or immigration status.
States are required to ensure that restrictions on mobility adopted in response to COVID-19 respect the rights of all persons to leave any State and to re-enter their home States.
In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, States must respect the liberty of movement of all persons within their territory.
A State’s pursuit of legitimate health goals must respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, including non-return to a real risk of persecution, arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
States may not enforce immigration laws in a manner that increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19, and such enforcement must comport with fundamental norms of due process. Detention of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons is impermissible where such detention would expose them to serious risks to their health and life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
States must take effective measures to mitigate COVID-19 transmission among migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons living in camps, collective shelters, and settlements.
Migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons have a right to information about COVID-19, including information related to symptoms, prevention, control of spread, treatment, and social relief. The internet is an indispensable source of information, and blocking or interfering with access during a pandemic is not justifiable.
In responding to COVID-19, States must protect the right to privacy of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons, including their right to control the release of personal medical information.
States must ensure the protection of the rights of displaced women, girls and gender-non-conforming people, and should identify and mitigate particular threats to their health, safety, and well-being in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Certain groups among migrant, refugee, and other displaced populations require special attention in the context of COVID-19, particularly when it comes to protecting the right to health, access to information, and the prohibition on discrimination. These include older people, persons with disabilities, and children.
States must observe the labor rights of migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons working in essential occupations and industries, and in particular take measures to protect their health. States must provide assistance to migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons who lose their jobs and incomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic to the same extent that such protection is afforded to nationals.
Any restrictions on rights must be provided by law and be reasonable, necessary, and proportionate. Rights may not be suspended except in a publicly declared emergency threatening the life of the nation, and only if strictly required by the situation. Any such suspension must be consistent with the State’s other international legal obligations.
Principles of protection for migrants, refugees, and other displaced persons
Endorse these principles.
Principes de protection des migrants, des réfugiés et des autres personnes déplacées
Principios de protección para migrantes, refugiadas y otras personas desplazadas
Immigration Short-Takes: Mobility in the Time of COVID-19 is an online series of short discussions on the nexus of migration-related issues and COVID-19. Scholars and activists on migration and mobility will join the Zolberg Institute in an online series of short discussions on the nexus of migration-related issues and COVID-19, during the worldwide pandemic. These short discussions, held over Zoom, will inform and engage the public through live and recorded conversations.
Discussions are held on Tuesdays and Fridays, at 1:00pmET / 12:00pmCT / 11:00amMT / 10:00amPT.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be interviewed.
May 29, 2020: The Impact of COVID-19 on International Migration
Director of the International Migration Initiative, Open Society Foundations
May 22, 2020: Remittances during COVID-19
Lead Economist, Migration and remittances, and Head of KNOMAD at The World Bank
May 15, 2020: EU Border Closures, Asylum, and COVID-19
Professor of International Relations at King's College London and MCU Research Professor at Sciences-Po Paris
Jean Monnet Professor ad personam at Queen Mary University of London and Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands
May 8, 2020: Canada, Bio-Status and COVID-19
Professor and Chair of Human Rights Law at the University of Toronto
May 5, 2020: The Impact of COVID-19 on India
Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, India
May 1, 2020: Human Mobility and Human Rights in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Principles of Protection for Refugees, Migrants, and Other Displaced Persons
Ian M. Kysel
Visiting Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
Allan Rosenfield Associate Professor of Forced Migration and Health, Director of the Forced Migration and Health Program, Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
April 28, 2020: Coronavirus as the 'Invasive Other'
Associate Professor Anthropology, The New School for Social Research
April 24, 2020: The Legality of the Trump Immigration Bans
Professor of the Practice of Law at Stanford University; Professor and Senior Researcher at Yale Law School
April 21, 2020: COVID-19 and Refugee Camps
Paul Spiegel, MD
MD, MPH, Professor of the Practice, Director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins University
April 17, 2020: The 1918 Pandemic and US Immigration Policy
University Professor of History and International Service at American University
April 14, 2020: Why Immigrant Workers are Especially Vulnerable to COVID-19
Senior Policy Analyst, US Immigrant Policy Program, Migration Policy Institute,
April 7, 2020: DACA Litigation and Advocacy in the Face of COVID-19
Deputy Dean for Experiential Education, Sol Goldman Clinical Professor of Law, and Director of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School
Clinical Associate Professor of Law at Yale Law School
April 3, 2020: The End of Asylum? The New COVID-19 Border Rules
Senior U.S. Advocate at Refugees International
March 31, 2020: The Impact of COVID-19: Time to End Immigration Detention?
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández
Associate Professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law
March 27, 2020: Immigration Policy in the Time of COVID-19
Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia
Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and Clinical Professor of Law at Penn State Law in University Park
Transcripts of each webinar coming soon.
This COVID-19 Community Resources was created by graduate students at The New School for Social Research, and supported the Zolberg Institute, to help immigrant communities in New York City access resources during the global pandemic.