The European migrant crisis of 2015 brought to light the urgent need for solidarity and responsibility-sharing in dealing with large influxes of people fleeing war, conflict and persecution. This spirit was captured in two subsequent international agreements: the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) (2018) and the Global Compact for Safe and Orderly Migration (GCM) (2018). In the midst of a very different kind of crisis - the global COVID-19 pandemic - the need for solidarity and responsibility-sharing is all the more imperative as COVID-19 has become a 'risk multiplier' for asylum seekers, compounding existing drivers. By examining how Western nation states in the global North have responded to asylum seekers during the pandemic against the backdrop of existing international refugee law, practice, and policy, this essay seeks to evaluate the normative potential of the GCR and the GCM for the entrenchment of the principle of solidarity. Employing the theoretical framework of governmentality, it argues that despite the rhetoric of responsibility-sharing, the reactions of Western nation states reflect an existing trend toward exclusionary impulses, with countries reflexively reverting to patterns of state-centric, insular protectionism. Taking these issues into consideration, the essay goes on to focus on Canada's response to the COVID-19 pandemic in light of its proximity to and relationship with the United States to illustrate how biopower is being deployed to exclude in line with neoliberal rationalities, even in a country that is usually heralded as a beacon of humanitarianism. The essay concludes with a guarded diagnosis that warns of the potential for an international protection crisis should civil society fail to challenge prevailing biopolitics.
Keywords: COVID-19, Asylum Seekers, Refugees, Solidarity, Responsibility-sharing, Governmentality, Biopower, Neoliberal, Canada, United States
Perzyna, M. (2020). The Substance of Solidarity: What the Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic Says About the Global Refugee Regime. Toronto, Ontario. Ryerson University, Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS) and the CERC in Migration and Integration at Ryerson University.