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Migrants and Refugees in Latin America during COVID-19: An Inclusion/Exclusion Spectrum of Social Protection

Vera Espinoza Marcia, Queen Mary University of London
Victoria Prieto Rosas, Universidad de la Republica
Gisela Zapata, Federal University of Minas Gerais
Luciana Gandini, Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, UNAM
Alethia Fernández de la Reguera, Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Gioconda Herrera, FLACSO
Stephanie López Villamil, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Cristina Zamora Gómez, Universidad de Sevilla
Cécile Blouin, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú
Camila Montiel, Universidad de la República
Gabriela Cabezas Gálvez, FLACSO
Irene Palla, Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia

The COVID-19 sanitary crisis has put to the test Latin America’s already precarious social protection systems. This paper comparatively examines to what extent migrant and refugee populations have been included in social protection programmes in 7 countries – Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay – during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what this tells us about the place of migrants’ social rights and citizenship in the eyes of the state. Based on 70 semi-structured interviews with representatives of central and local governments, International Organisations, Civil Society and migrant-led organisations across 18 cities, we look at the inclusion (or lack thereof) of migrant and refugee populations in the Non-Contributory Social Transfer (NCST) programmes and other actions undertaken by public and private actors. We argue that there is an inclusion/exclusion social protection spectrum for migrant and refugee populations in pre-existing and new NCST programmes across the seven country-case studies, and that the emerging assemblages of actors providing social assistance, are furthering notions of migrant protection that are contingent and crisis-driven, imposing temporal limitations that often selectively exclude migrants based on legal status. This approach has direct impacts on migrants and refugees’ lives, while also shaping the dynamics of migration governance in the region.

Keywords: COVID-19, Policy, Cross-country comparative analyses, Migrant populations

See paper.

  Presented in Session 62. COVID-19 and Migration