The European Migration Network (EMN) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have published updated information on the impact of COVID-19 in the migration area. The new Umbrella Inform completes the joint EMN and OECD Inform series between on the impact of COVID-19 on migration and asylum in the EU Member States and non-EU OECD countries throughout 2020. Updates are provided on topics ranging from changes in border procedures, provision of COVID-19 related healthcare services to migrants, the shifting landscape of the labour market, international protection, international students, and return issues. This Inform was also developed with the input and support of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX). 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created profound changes in all areas of migration and asylum. EU Member States and non-EU OECD countries have made many efforts to keep the pandemic under control, entailing impacts such as border closures, travel restrictions, and the need to introduce sanitary measures. Beginning with the pandemic’s impact on permits and entry conditions, the Inform reports on contingency measures adopted by EU and non-OECD countries in an effort to keep systems operational and to mitigate the impacts on migrants and citizens to the extent possible. For instance, the reduction of in-person immigration related services was largely replaced by electronic or postal communication to ensure continuity in processes.

In EU Member States and Norway, the automatic extension of residence permits or the removal of the obligation to leave in some cases, were some of the measures taken to reduce the impact of COVID-19. Most EU Member States provided financial support for migrant workers affected by the pandemic, either due to unemployment or loss of income, and made COVID-19 related healthcare services available to all migrants.

Although restrictions were imposed on the admission of migrants, continued admission was granted for jobs deemed essential in an effort to meet labour market needs, notably in areas of health, agriculture, and transport. New digital tools have been critical in providing asylum and migration services, although the Inform notes that it has also raised new challenges. In the area of asylum, for instance, providing effective and fair application and appeals processes has become more complicated by having remote interviews, and depends largely on the applicants’ ability to use and access electronic means. Both the requests for asylum and the number of returns carried out have reduced in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

The landscape also changed for international students, where in-person attendance was discouraged if not suspended altogether. Many students returned home, and in some cases, were able to continue their studies remotely, while processes to renew residence permits were moved online.

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