EVERY COUNTRY in the world has closed or partly closed its borders since the pandemic began. In total, they have issued more than 65,000 restrictions on mobility. For some places, especially islands, border controls have bought valuable time to prepare for covid-19. But the costs of global immobility are immense (see article). Billions of cancelled journeys means millions of jobs obliterated, lives blighted and dreams deferred. When bankers and tourists stopped flying to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, the migrants who made beds and stirred soup were laid off. Foreigners without jobs are required to leave the Gulf, but lots of them cannot, because so many flights have been grounded. Globally, tens of millions of migrants have been stranded, burning through the savings they had hoped would lift their families out of poverty and put their children through school. Some have ended up begging; and since that is a crime in the UAE, several have been arrested.
Migration policy is far from the top of any country’s agenda just now. And with the coronavirus still raging, a return to normality will be impossible for some time. But governments will sooner or later have to grapple with an important question. As they gradually and fitfully open up again for tourists and business travellers, will they also welcome migrants?