ICMPD Annual Policy Initiative 2020

Safeguarding human and public security in the new migration agenda



Migration and security are distinct public pol¬icy 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 intercon¬nected. Switzerland, as the chair of ICMPD’s Steering Group in 2020, has dedi¬cated 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 dis¬cussions 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 migra¬tion 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 senti¬ments 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. 



The purpose of this initiative is to contribute to analysis of the migration-security nexus and to further stimulate policy and strategic discussions on this topic. It aims to shed light on the following dimensions: border management, asylum procedures, integration, narratives about migration, and migration routes and pathways, taking into consideration the multi-dimensional impact of COVID-19 on these spheres. A cross-cutting emphasis will be placed on the use of technologies as well as public health and gender dimensions. It will also reflect the complex aspects of human and public security at various stages along migration routes in countries of origin, transit and destination.



ICMPD’s Annual Policy Initiative 2020 attempts to bring a highly sensitive and emotionally charged topic into policy discussions in order to address concerns, contradictions and perceptions based on factual input as well as to discuss political solutions. It will draw on analysis, engagement and consultations with ICMPD’s Member States and other key actors and will be implemented in close coordination with Switzerland as the ICMPD Steering Group Chair in 2020. 

Discussions will take place within ICMPD’s Steering Group, among Member States and through engagement with a range of external stakeholders at thematic events. The Vienna Migration Conference, ICMPD’s annual flagship conference, will serve as a platform to discuss the outcomes of the initiative in the broader context shaped by the COVID-19 crisis. Based on consultations and anchored in a wide-ranging assessment of priorities on safeguarding human and public security, a number of policy outputs will be prepared, including a set of policy options for post-crisis migration governance to be published by the end of 2020. 


Expected Results

Series of thematic discussion papers 

Series of thematic meetings organised 

VMC background paper 

VMC Policy report with recommendations

VMC Roundtables on migration and security