The year 2020 marked a sudden break in mobility across international borders. The COVID-19 pandemic decimated tourism and business travel; cut the lion’s share of seasonal and temporary labor migration; temporarily ground refugee resettlement efforts to a halt; and held up the processing of visas of all kinds, from those for international students to family reunification. Yet even as the overall picture of human mobility in 2020 is of movement dramatically curtailed, the details of this picture varied over the course of the year and across regions.
This report, which results from collaboration between the International Organization for Migration and the Migration Policy Institute, is a first-of-its-kind comprehensive analysis of the travel measures and border closures that governments worldwide implemented during 2020. This patchwork of fast-changing policies includes restrictions on the entry or transit of travelers through certain countries or regions, health measures (such as quarantine and testing requirements or medical certificates), and changes to visa regimes. At their peak in mid-December, these travel measures exceeded 111,000 in place at one time.
In addition to presenting data on how the types and number of travel restrictions and border closures changed over the course of 2020 and varied by region, the report examines the human impact of these policies for different groups of travelers and migrants. It also considers whether the evidence supports travel restrictions as effective tools for managing pandemics, analyzes the main policy levers that have increasingly replaced blanket travel bans, and examines how these measures may be seeding a new cross-border infrastructure built around public health. And it looks ahead to the lingering effects of these policies on mobility in 2021 and beyond.