haque5_MANOLIS LAGOUTARISAFP via Getty Images_coronavirusrefugeeun Manolis Lagoutaris/AFP via Getty Images

Avoiding a COVID-19 Migration Crisis

Refugees stand the most to lose from COVID-19 as the virus ratchets up extreme nationalism. Unless the strategy to defeat the coronavirus emphasizes inclusiveness, courage, and collaboration, without distinction or discrimination, it will not succeed.

DHAKA – Closing national borders is a natural response to the coronavirus pandemic, and governments stand on firm legal ground when they do so. But the virus was never going to be stopped at national frontiers, and now containment policies pose another menace: a new migration crisis.

Recent viral epidemics – SARS in 2003, H1N1 in 2009, Ebola in 2014, Zika in 2016, and HIV – illustrate that travel restrictions failed to control the spread of the pathogen. The World Health Organization has acknowledged that travel bans from affected areas rarely contain deadly viruses.

Instead, such restrictions translate fear into national-security policy and ramp up anti-migrant sentiments. They lead to extreme nationalism and insularity, which some world leaders have sought to stoke and exploit. In March, for example, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview with Kossuth Rádió, “Our experience is that primarily foreigners brought in the disease, and that it is spreading among foreigners.”

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