Securitizing Mobilities

Securitizing Mobilities

The securitization of mobilities is the effort to make mobilities safe for the state, the public and for the migrants themselves, though one party’s safety is often another party’s hazard. Specific measures include contact tracing; logistical intervention; contactless delivery; and traveller screening and qualification. These measures do not necessarily reduce mobilities, and a key goal of the securitization is to ensure continuous circulations of goods, capital and people as a basis of the economy.


The 21-day national lockdown to halt the spread of COVID in South Africa did not end abruptly, but instead it has been eased progressively through four levels of mobility policies. These easing policies ranged from reduction of curfew hours, progressive uplifting of mobility and international flights bans, and the authorization of businesses and social/recreational centers to operate. — Mengnjo Tardzenyuy Thomas
After the lockdown, the Chinese government organised the return of rural-to-urban migrants to work through point-to-point transport and rigorous health checks, while creating a new business niche for intermediaries. — Biao Xiang
Mobility restriction in South Africa led to protests by health workers, taxi drivers, NGOs and others against job loss and government corruption. — Mengnjo Tardzenyuy Thomas
If individual mobilities were securitized—e.g. through tracing, monitoring and vaccine certification—borders could remain open during pandemics. There could be a trade-off between personal privacy and personal freedom of movement. But would such a substitution be feasible, or desirable? — Jelena Dzankic, Timothy Jacob-Owens, Lorenzo Piccoli, Biao Xiang
India imposed a national lockdown at the early stage of the pandemic in March 2020, but opted for local containment in 2021 when the situation was much worse. What explain the policy choices? How have the measures affected residents, especially migrants, differently? — Mukta Naik, Biao Xiang
The Chinese government reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic by imposing blanket monitoring over the entire population through ‘grids’ of residential communities. This measure of securitizing mobilities is new as compared to what the government did during the SARS outbreak in 2003. This is due to changes in patterns of mobility and in governance. — Biao Xiang
The ambiguous policy of the Swedish Migration Agency regarding non-European students’ resident permits and the decentralised decision-making process created uncertainties for both students and universities during the COVID-19 pandemic. — Gloria Gemma
Contact tracing apps have been employed to control and contain COVID-19, with varying consequences for everyday life, and implications for individuals’ rights to privacy. — Vidya Ramachandran
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