The peril of urban migrant citizenship in a post covid-19 world

David Monda

The COVID-19 crisis has created new forms of trauma that have emerged from the pandemic in relation to urban migrant citizenship. The rights of migrants to the city are under threat. In thinking about the peril of urban citizenship in a post-COVID-19 world, structural and situated inequalities between differently positioned groups in the world need to be addressed. Not only does the international community need to assess traditional North-South migration challenges, but more attention needs to be placed on South-South migration where structural and situated inequalities (the locational disparities due to segregated space in the city) are exacerbated due to the weakness of the state, economic deprivation, and increasing populist fervor around nativism and xenophobia.

The severe economic challenges that will be a relic of the “new normal” of multiple variants of coronavirus being mutated, will lead to a world with continued economic anxiety, uncertainty, and potential lockdowns. The migrant in urban spaces will therefore become further marginalized in accessing public goods such as healthcare and public safety. This will continue to be a challenge in the developed global north and the developing global south as healthcare systems become stretched, economies shrink, and rising unemployment/depleted social safety nets lead to increases in crime and urban malaise. This is another element of the migrant urban citizen that policy makers need to consider going forward in the post-COVID-19 world. It appears that the pandemic will be present for a while to come. Access to vaccines should be provided for the marginalized and poor. These vaccines should have longer shelf lives. In addition to this, industrialized nations should invest in health infrastructure of developing nations as an international effort to tackle the global threat of covid.19.

Lastly, the era of populist authoritarianism has tested the institutions of liberal democracy around the world. It has also reinforced the hand of authoritarians in illiberal democratic spaces. Malignant racist and xenophobic discourses have attached to many non-white urban migrants due to stigmatization and blame for the spread of the virus in different cities. Because of the distrust and disillusionment of the electorate in countries like the United States, Turkey, Hungary, India, and Brazil, populist leaders have used popular discontent to hit out at migrants and blame them for a range of social and economic maladies. I highlight the need for multilateral cooperation that bridges traditional divides between academics, legislators, and practitioners in the civil society space. New and innovative modes of protecting the right to the city for vulnerable urban migrants need to be developed in the post COVID-19 world.


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