Annual Policy Initiative 2020

The Migration-Security Nexus


Safeguarding human and public security in the new migration agenda


Migration and security are distinct public policy areas. But whether we talk about border security, law and order, or ‘human security’ (the well-being of communities and people), it is clear they are highly interconnected. Switzerland, as the chair of ICMPD’s Steering Group in 2020, has dedicated its chairmanship to an examination of the relationship between these two worlds, including the new salience that the COVID-19 pandemic has given bio-security and public health issues.

Recent incidents have fuelled and dominated public and expert discussions on security in the context of migration. Rising security threats related to terrorism, as sparked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, have led to a global securitisation of mobility. The large movement of migrants and refugees to Europe in 2015-2016, coupled with the situation on the Greek-Turkish border in February 2020, reinvigorated discussions on the integrity of European migration and asylum systems.

Further to these trends, the recent outbreak of COVID-19 might ultimately have the most far-reaching impact on migration in the security context given the impact it has and continues to have on all aspects of life. The pandemic has already resulted in immediate restrictions on entry, taking the form of border closures and/or tightened security screenings at many borders— measures have been more rapid and widespread than during the 2015- 16 spike in arrivals. In curtailing movement, these restrictions have significantly impacted the global economy and the availability of foreign workers in migrant-dependant sectors.

At the same time, the pandemic also impacts people involved in migration processes, especially populations from conflict areas, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are particularly vulnerable. More broadly, the indirect consequences of COVID-19 may, in this context, include further securitisation of the public debate and the risk of intensified discriminatory sentiments against migrants.

To this end, ICMPD is dedicating its Annual Policy Initiative 2020 to exploring ways to safeguard human and public security in light of the new migration context.