What will global migration look like after the pandemic? Researcher consults with experts and sees four possible scenarios


This report was funded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as part of a project called “From Chaos to Coordination: Mobility during and after COVID-19.”  The author, Meghan Benton, Director of Research for MPI’s International Program, consulted with leading health and mobility experts and government officials around the world in preparing her analysis and conclusions. The report lays out four possible future scenarios for global mobility. In Scenario 1 (Pandemic Proofing), the pandemic will become “a 9/11 moment for borders and mobility, with public health decisively shaping decisions on whom to let into a country in much the same way as security considerations did in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.” In Scenario 2 (Mobility with Friends), global cooperation remains an elusive goal, while regional travel “bubbles” become the norm. In Scenario 3 (Chaos and Fragmentation), nation-states continue to experiment with unilateral approaches but little progress is made on reaching global standards and procedures resulting in continued clogged mobility channels. In Scenario 4 (Pre-Pandemic Status Quo), as the pandemic fizzles out (hopefully by 2023), governments seek to derive benefit from fully opening up to international tourists and migrants, yet lingering concerns about future pandemics continue to cast a shadow. The author goes into detail on each of these outcomes, including the pros and cons of an internationally recognized vaccination certificate. She concludes,  “COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for governments on the importance of having clear and well-thought-out systems to adapt to the outbreak and spread of disease.” In developing these systems, however, governments should resist the political temptation to use migrants as scapegoats in future health crises.

Future Scenarios for Global Mobility in the Shadow of Pandemic,
Migration Policy Institute, July 2021, 33 pp.
Author: Meghan Benton