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HomeCovid-19, Migration and Migratory Parkours

Covid-19, Migration and Migratory Parkours

Covid-19, migrations et parcours

From Mobility to the Prisms of Immobility: Paradoxes and Realities

Des mobilités aux prismes de l’immobilité : paradoxes et réalités

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Published on Thursday, February 04, 2021


The notion of migratory parkour proposes to apprehend migration as a process that varies according to the spaces crossed, the resources mobilized and personal choices, implying a particular will and intention, according to the opportunities, constraints and risks encountered. It also considers the interactions between multiple actors (migrants, States, criminal groups, solidarity collectives). Beyond these experiences linked to the “route”, the migratory parkour also encompasses the process of integration/inclusion in the host society and of return/repatriation in the country of origin. The general objective of this call of Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales is then to question the heuristic value of the notion of migratory parkour in the context of Covid-19.


Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales


In contrast to a uniform vision, in our understanding the notion of migratory parkour takes into consideration the diversity of economic, political, social and legal events involved in the experience of migration. The migratory parkour considers migration as a process that is shaped by the spaces crossed, the means used and personal choices, implying a particular will and intention, according to the opportunities, constraints and risks encountered. It also considers the interactions between multiple actors (migrants, States, NGOs, host communities, criminal groups) and sometimes contradictory ways in which migrants enter into relationships with communities of mutual support (family and compatriots) and ad hoc actors (trafficking or smuggling networks). Beyond these experiences linked to the “route”, the migratory parkour also considers integration/inclusion and return.

This adaptability and reversibility of migratory parkour seem essential to document through specific situations and contexts. Indeed, different patterns can be observed: urban populations, partly resulting from the rural exodus in societies of the South, fleeing the confines of large urban centers (New Delhi) and trying to reach the rural world; migrants engaged in a migratory parkours towards the North, interrupted, and seeking to return to their country of origin; migrants settled regularly or not but who, faced with a deterioration in their economic and social situation (United States, Southern Europe), difficult access to healthcare, choose to return. The rapid closure of borders has also led to situations of waiting, delaying returns through repatriation procedures decided by the States according to various modalities and temporalities highlighting certain categories (foreigners, nationals, permanent residents, etc.). The issue of repatriation concerns both those alive and those who died during the Covid-19 pandemic. The mobilization of migrant associations in both the countries of departure and destination and the emotion raised has shown in certain contexts the sensitive dimension of returning to the country to be buried there.

The general objective of this call then aims at questioning the heuristic value of the notion of migratory parkour, by observing the dynamics of migrations in the context of Covid-19 through a double prism: what are the impacts of the health crisis and its political management on migratory parkours? What does the Covid-19 reveal about these parkours, in a paradoxical context of constrained immobility? The health crisis provoked by the Covid-19 directly questions the representations and paradigms developed in the field of migration studies in recent decades (De Haas, 2011; Faist, 2013; Glick Schiller, 2013; Stark and Bloom, 2014).

Freedom of Movement and Health Borders

The succession and spread of health measures taken throughout the world (border closures, containment measures, quarantine, etc.) have suddenly and profoundly constrained individual movements. The setting up of (temporary) borders on all territories, both between and within States, raises the issues of internal/external, national/international dichotomy structuring the global political organization and of the regulation of mobility. In many countries, the right of any national to move freely throughout the national territory has been profoundly hindered or reduced to the narrow territory of a region, a province or even a city. Internal migration has been constrained in ways that may resemble those usually associated with international migration.

The lesser relevance of the dichotomy does not eliminate all distinctions and the maintenance of specificities. The objective of safeguarding public health has also been mobilized in order to justify derogations from the universal right to move freely within “one’s country” and restrictions on the right, recognized in certain contexts (regional areas of freedom of movement) and in favor of certain categories of populations, to move between States: how can we assess the conformity of these justifications with the various legal instruments (national, regional and international) proclaiming freedom of movement (Jouzier, 2020)? Beyond the diversity of legal situations, it is the diversity of individual experiences that needs to be grasped: were the drivers of internal and international movements in the context of the Covid-19 crisis the same for internal and international migrants?

Immobility in Mobility

Health measures have tipped “the worlds of motion” (Massey, 1998), the “migratory planet” (Simon, 2008), “The Age of migration” (Castles and Miller, 2003) and “worlds of mobility” (Dureau and Hily, 2009) towards a world that suddenly seemed frozen and at a standstill. This generalized “immobility” constraint has revealed the extent to which mobility and migration are consubstantial with the economic, political and social functioning of our societies, whether in countries of departure, transit or destination (UNDP, 2020).

Nevertheless, this notion of “immobility” needs to be questioned (Carling, 2002; Jónsson, 2011; Schewel, 2019). Many examples have shown that it is undoubtedly linked to a biased viewpoint, based in the painful experience of categories of populations used to circulate without economic or legal barriers, having passports authorizing them to travel to a large number of destinations without worrying about obtaining visas, or circulating freely in transnational spaces because of their nationality or residence status.

Some of the latter did not, moreover, freeze their migratory parkours during the Covid-19 crisis. A certain mobility has marginally persisted (Bernier, 2020). As a counterpoint to the lock down imposed on a large part of the world's population, migrants, usually subject to the tightening of migration policies, have been able to mobilize the experiences acquired during their migratory parkours and the knowledge of their community in order to adapt their choices on migration routes. Some have preferred to engage in processes of return to their countries of origin, refusing to be blocked in border areas and leaving for countries that were entering a period of economic recession. The Covid-19 crisis illustrates the impact of events on migration processes. It shows in return the interest of the approach through the notion of migratory parkours.

The apparent immobility should not obscure active or authorized circulation/migration (cross-border migration, seasonal workers). They thus highlight the role of labor demand (migration as an adjustment variable?) and economic stakes in the regulation of flows. Which categories, up to now mobile, are concerned by these obstacles induced by the Covid: seasonal workers, health personnel, internal migrants, etc.? Under what conditions can the different actors involved move, and how do they feel about these constraints?

Invisibility, Visibility and Inequalities

The Covid-19 crisis is also an opportunity for some migrants because of their competences and the policies decided by the States where they reside. In order to ensure the health security of the population, some governments (Portugal, Italy, Spain) have chosen to temporarily regularize migrants in an irregular situation. By promoting their access to healthcare, this biopolicy seeks to provide more effective protection (ensuring collective immunity, avoiding clusters, guaranteeing labor capacities) to the entire population of the territory (Foucault, 2009). Other states have chosen to grant asylum claims (Canada) to refugees recognized as being significantly involved in the fight against the pandemic (medical personnel). Some Syrian refugees have, for instance in Germany and the United Kingdom, have expressed their gratefulness by placing themselves at the service of their “new homeland”, thus contributing to the construction of the national narrative. Not only asylum seekers, but also refugees, migrants and people of immigrant origin committed themselves both socially and politically.

Beyond individual paths, it is a set of communities and minorities that have acquired visibility and are appreciated for their contribution to the social edifice, which appears to be weakened or even in a situation of quasi-existential crisis, as revealed by the use of word such as “in struggle”, “in response” or “at war”. The Covid-19 crisis also sheds a harsh light, through the excess mortality linked to the Covid-19 of these minorities, on the specificity of their integration process, thereby questioning their situations in the national context and in diasporic configurations, discrimination and access to health care (Maldonado, 2020). More fundamentally, it lays bare the limits of policies that, established on a unifying logic (integration), fail to integrate the diversity of situations (inclusion). Large epidemiological surveys with specific methodologies (in France, the EpiCov Epidemiology and Living Conditions survey with a representative panel of the population was conducted, including front-line workers who were heavily affected by the virus; the Sapris-Sero survey included regular participants from five major public health studies; in the United Kingdom, the Public Health England survey on BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) provide a better understanding of inequalities in the face of the virus by articulating social and epidemiological issues (PHE, 2020). They are consistent with and reinforce the results of qualitative studies conducted in the field (Carillon et al., 2020).

Return/Repatriation, Family and Mental Health

While the issue of mental health is a public health issue that usually suffers from a lack of institutional recognition and a lack of financial mobilization, the health crisis has brought this problem to the forefront because of the psychological consequences of the situation of more or less strict confinement (stress, anxiety, depression, anguish) which concerned a large part of the global population (e.g. INSERM’s EPIDEMIC survey on the psychological consequences of confinement, the regular CoviPrev survey on monitoring the well-being of the French people, the WHO survey evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on refugees and migrants) or more specific populations (adolescents and young adults, health professionals, for example, refugees) (Brooks, 2020; Pollock, 2020). Migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, because of the conditions of confinement, their living, housing and transport conditions (suburbs far from places of work, camps, dormitories, detention centers, workers’ hostels, squatting, etc.), their “frontline” professional activities have been particularly exposed to the risk of contamination (Rees, 2020). Nevertheless, surveys show that this “overexposure” of immigrants to the virus must be qualified.

A number of psychiatrists (Marie Rose Moro, Serge Hefez), psychologists (Marie-Caroline Saglio-Yatzimirsky), psychoanalysts (Cynthia Fleury), describe the psychological and social effects of the pandemic which they define as a trauma, calling into question the daily life and future of everyone, even reactivating a past trauma in the case of refugees[1]. They are all worried about a “third psychiatric wave”, so much so that Covid-19 questions the tolerance of each person to uncertainty and risk (tolerance being an indicator of good mental health) and redraws the mental images confronted with a new reality of death. The repatriation of bodies, the rituals surrounding death and burials have been sensitive and symbolic subjects of relations between migrants, diasporas, and states of origin, testifying to the importance of funerals at home. Far from being two antinomic poles, life and death interpenetrate, as demonstrated by the importance of rituals embedded in religion and their adaptation — including virtual — to health restrictions. In the countries of arrival, as in France, the lack of space in Muslim cemetery squares has revealed inequalities even in mourning. Death in the context of Covid-19 re-actualizes this classic prism through which to investigate the condition of migrants and foreigners (Lestage, 2012; Kobelinsky, 2016).

In the contexts of return and repatriation, but also of emigration, migrants have been designated or even stigmatized as vectors of coronavirus transmission. However, international organizations and institutions (WHO, IOM, UNHCR, ILO for example) have all stressed the need to include migrants in the “responses” to the Covid-19 for greater effectiveness and to ensure their rights and protection, particularly in terms of access to care and universal health coverage (OHCHR, 2020). The health of migrants has therefore emerged as one of the essential components of national and global health, while Covid-19 revealed how systemic inequalities affect the health of certain categories (migrants, immigrant populations) (Kluge et al., 2020).

The significant drop in remittances also led to increased stress and vulnerability of families in the countries of origin, who, like migrants, sometimes suffered from a sharp reduction in their resources. In addition to economic uncertainty and the stress linked to the stigma of belonging to a migrant family, there were also questions about the migrant’s future and health (access to health care, processing of administrative files), particularly when the migrant resides in a country particularly affected by the epidemic. The Covid-19 constitutes, in an exacerbated emotional context, an opportunity to re-examine the links between the migrants and their families, but also with the country of origin, which may appear to be a safer health and social context than the country of emigration. The differences in epidemic profiles between countries and regions of the world — especially the place of Africa in the pandemic — also invite us to consider the issue from a Global South perspective.


  • Start of call: January 20, 2021
  • Deadline to send abstracts (answer in the following weeks): February 28, 2021

  • Deadline to send articles for peer-review: May 1st, 2021
  • Selection process and reply to authors: June 15, 2021
  • Deadline to send articles in their final version: November 1st, 2021
  • Publication: March 2022

Submission Modalities

Proposals for articles should be written in French or English, and should include the author’s affiliation, a title and an abstract (1,000 characters spaces included). They can come from different disciplines of the social sciences, and should be sent to florian.aumond@univ-poitiers.fr, veronique.petit@ceped.org and nelly.robin@ird.fr

before February 28, 2021.

Articles can be in French, English or Spanish.

Texts need to conform to house style (https://journals.openedition.org/remi/5848)

Selection Committee/Coordination

Florian Aumond (Jurist, Lecturer, University of Poitiers)

Véronique Petit (Demographer, Professor, CEPED, University of Paris/IRD)

Nelly Robin (Geographer, Research Director, CEPED, University of Paris/IRD)


Deadline to send abstracts February 28, 2021.




Bernier Xavier (Dir.) (2020) Mobilités et marginalités, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

Brooks Samantha K., Webster Rebacca K., Smith Louise E., Woodland Lisa, Wessely Simon, Greenberg Neil and Rubin Gideon James (2020) The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence, The Lancet, [online]. URL: https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(20)30460-8/fulltext

Carillon Séverine, Gosselin Anne, Coulibaly Karna, Ridde Valéry and Desgrées du Loû Annabel (2020) Immigrants facing Covid-19 containment in France: an ordinary hardship of disaffiliation, Journal of Migration and Health, [online]. URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666623520300325

Carling Jorgen (2002) Migration in the Age of Involuntary Immobility: Theoretical Reflections and Cape Verdean Experiences, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 28 (1), pp. 5-42.

Castles Stephen, De Haas Hein and Miller Mark J. (2014 [5th ed.]) The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World, New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

De Haas Hein (2014) Migration Theory: Quo Vadis?, International Migration Institute, Working Paper Series, Working Paper 100, pp. 1-39.

Dureau Françoise et Hily Marie-Antoinette (2009) Les mondes de la mobilité, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

Faist Thomas (2013) The Mobility Turn: A New Paradigm for the Social Sciences?, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36 (11), pp. 1637-1646.

Glick Schiller Nina and Salazar Noel B. (2013) Regimes of Mobility across the Globe, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 39 (2), pp. 183-200.

Hammar Tomas, Brochmann Grete, Tamas Kristof and Faist Thomas (Eds.) (1997) International migration immobility and development: multidisciplinary perspectives, Londres, Routledge.

Haut-Commissariat aux droits de l’homme des Nations Unies (HCDH) (2020) Covid-19 et les droits de l’homme des migrants : un guide.

Jónsson Gunvor (2011) Non-Migrant, Sedentary, Immobile or “Left Behind”? Reflections on the Absence of Migration, International Migration Institute Working Paper Series, Working Paper 39, pp. 1-17.

Jouzier Baptiste (2020) Le « droit d’entrer dans son propre pays » à l’épreuve des circonstances sanitaires exceptionnelles : un cadre juridique devant évoluer ?, Revue des droits et libertés fondamentaux, 14.

Kobelinsky Carolina (2016). Les vies des morts de la migration, Plein droit, 109 (2), pp. 6-9, [en ligne]. URL : https://www.cairn.info/revue-plein-droit-2016-2-page-6.htm

Kluge Hans Henri, Jakab Zsuzsanna, Bartovic Jozef, D’Anna Veronika and Severoni Santino (2020) Refugee and migrant health in the COVID-19 response, The Lancet, [online]. URL: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30791-1/fulltext

Lestage Françoise (2012) Éditorial : La mort en migration, Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, 28 (3), pp. 7-12.

Maldonado Behrouz, Collins Jennifer, Blundell Harriet J. and Singh Lucy (2020) Engaging the vulnerable: a rapid review of public health communication aimed at migrants during the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe, Journal of migration and health, [online]. URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666623520300040

Massey Douglas (1998) Worlds in Motion: Understanding International Migration at the End of the Millennium, Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Pollock Alex, Campbell Pauline, Cheyne Joshua, Cowie Julie, Davis Bridget, McCallum Jacqueline, McGill Kris, Elders Andrew, Hagen Suzanne, McClurg Doreen, Torrens Claire and Maxwell Margaret (2020) Interventions to support the resilience and mental health of frontline health and social care professionals during and after a disease outbreak, epidemic or pandemic: a mixed methods systematic review, [online]. URL: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33150970/

Portes Alejandro (1999) La mondialisation par le bas. L’émergence des communautés transnationales, Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales, 129.

Programme des Nations Unies pour le développement (PNUD) (2020) Human Mobility, Shared Opportunities.

Public Health England (2020) Beyond the data. Understanding the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities, 69, Public Health England.

Rees Suzan and Jane Fisher (2020) COVID-19 and the mental health of people from refugee backgrounds, International Journal of Health Services, 50 (4), pp. 415-441.

Salazar Noel B (2011) Anthropological takes on (im) mobility, Identities, 18 (6), pp. i-ix.

Schewel Kerilyn (2019) Understanding immobility, moving beyong the mobility bias in migration studies, International Migration Review, 54 (2), pp. 328-355.

Simon Gildas (2008) La planète migratoire dans la mondialisation, Paris, Armand Colin.

Skeldon Ronald (1997) Migration and Development: A Global Perspective, Harlow, Longman.

Stalker Peter (2000) Workers without frontiers. The Impact of Globalization on International Migration, Boulder, Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Stark Oded and Bloom David E. (1985) The New Economics of Labor Migration, American Economic Review, 75, pp. 173-178.


[1] « Pour les exilés, le confinement peut réveiller des images traumatiques », [online] last checked on 27/04/2020. URL: https://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2020/04/27/pour-les-exiles-le-confinement-peut-reveiller-des-images-traumatiques_6037902_3224.html#xtor=AL-32280270


  • Sunday, February 28, 2021


  • parcours, Covid-19, immobilité, mobilité, retour, inégalité, droit, santé mentale


  • Audrey Brosset
    courriel : remi [at] univ-poitiers [dot] fr

Information source

  • Audrey Brosset
    courriel : remi [at] univ-poitiers [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

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« Covid-19, Migration and Migratory Parkours », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, February 04, 2021, https://calenda.org/838235

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