The pandemic has exposed the fragility of economic and social protection systems in the Americas. The economic collapse in receiving and/or transit countries in the continent has led to the cessation of sources of informal employment for thousands of irregularized migrants. In addition, limited and lack of access to health care, the minimal social protection that destination and/or transit states provide for people om the move, and the social discrimination and xenophobia has pushed migrants to return to their home communities.
Amidst pandemic a new form of mobility emerges: return migration.
Return migration is taking place at both at a national scale (migrations from urban centers to rural towns) and at a transnational scale (migrations from destination or transit countries to home countries). The migrant population is returning to their places of origin to find shelter with family members and social networks for support and care amidst the pandemic.
Some migrants have pressured their respective consulates to receive state support for their returns. Peruvians and Bolivians in Chile and Venezuelans in Ecuador camped outside these consulates waiting for assistance. The vast majority have undertaken trips home on their own, defying confinement measures and border closures. Some have even done so on foot as in the case of Hondurans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans irregularly staying in their countries of origin, as well as Nicaraguans from Costa Rica to Nicaragua, Haitians from the Dominican Republic to Haiti, and Venezuelan migrants throughout the Andean region to Venezuela.
Within some national spaces, return migration from the city to the countryside is also recorded. For example, indigenous people from Guerrero and the highlands of Chiapas who sought refuge in the United States returned to their places of origin when they saw the overcrowded and precarious conditions in the camps in Tamaulipas. Indigenous people from the provinces of Cañar and Chimborazo who lived in the city of Guayaquil, the most affected by the pandemic in Ecuador, have also returned; as have rural migrants in the capital Lima in Peru.
This unprecedented return migration, whether forced and/or voluntary, will be the subject of the proposed discussion. In this extremely adverse scenario of pandemic outbreak, border control, surveillance, and punishment, migrants generate strategies and build new routes--this time to return home.