In recent months people’s movements have been severely restricted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, in ways that might have been unimaginable a few months earlier. In the UK, travel restrictions have led to a sharp decline in asylum applications, with Europe recording the lowest level of asylum applications for over a decade. Yet, this does not indicate a fall in the number of people who are forcefully displaced; rather, more people are stuck in countries of origin and spaces of transit en route, often without adequate access to essential services.
Refugee resettlement is one safe and legal pathway to protection for people in search of safety. In recent years, the issue of forced migration in Europe has often been described in terms of a ‘migration crisis’. This is a problematic narrative as it suggests that migration, or the arrival of people in Europe, is itself a problem. Moreover, by locating the issue in Europe, a wider geography and history of mobility including Europe’s violent engagements in other parts of the world, is cut off from the frame of analysis.
The proliferation of borders
The problem is not movement as such – people move all the time, or at least we did before the Covid-19 pandemic, the problem is that, due to the proliferation of borders, people in search of safety often have no access to legal routes to safety. One of the reasons that so many people embark on irregular, costly and dangerous journeys is that there are very few visas for people travelling on humanitarian grounds such as fleeing conflict, persecution, poverty or other conditions that endanger their lives.
A serious rethinking of the border regime is required to ensure that people on the move do not become illegalised – that is, have to resort to irregular and often dangerous journeys. Making legal pathways more accessible to people who need them most and increasing their capacity is one step in the right direction. As a refugee resettlement pathway, community sponsorship supports this effort.