Pandemic widens global mobility gap

Countries in the global north have enforced some of the most stringent inbound Covid-19-related travel restrictions.

12 October 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

The latest version of the Henley Passport Index shows how travel restrictions over the past 18 months have resulted in the widest global mobility gap in its 16-year history.

The Henley Passport Index compares the visa-free access of 199 different passports to 227 travel destinations. It is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The index ranks countries on the basis of the number of places where citizens can travel without a visa.

Namibia ranks 73rd, with a visa-free or visa-on-arrival score of 78.

The index showed that countries in the global north have enforced some of the most stringent inbound Covid-19-related travel restrictions.

North vs South

Meanwhile, many countries with lower-ranking passports in the global south have relaxed their borders without seeing this openness reciprocated.

“This has created an ever-widening gap in travel freedom, even for fully vaccinated travellers from countries at the lower end of the passport power ranking who remain locked out of most of the world.”

Analysis indicated that this gap is likely to increase as pandemic-related restrictions become entrenched and amplify the already significant global mobility divide between advanced and developing economies.

It says that Japan, which shares the top spot on the index with Singapore, currently bars almost all foreign nationals from entry.

Germany, which sits alongside South Korea in joint second place, restricts nearly 100 countries from entry.

At the lower end of the index, 97th-ranked Egypt has no travel restriction in place, yet its citizens can access just 51 destinations around the world without acquiring a visa in advance.

Namibia is also not restricting any foreign nationals from visiting, but can access only 78 destinations without a visa.

Migration control

“The global north has been enforcing aggressive migration containment strategies for some time now through the rigid application of border controls, undermining the movement of persons in various ways.

“Covid-19-associated travel restrictions are new additions to the toolbox of migration containment instruments employed by the global north to curb mobility from the global south,” said Professor Mehari Taddele Maru from the United Nations University Institute.

The report further noted that recent adjustments to the Covid bans of the UK and the US, which share the seventh place on the index, have done little to alter growing inequalities when it comes to travel freedom and access.

“Nor has their refusal to recognise vaccines administered across Africa, South America and South Asia.”

Although the US has now opened its borders to all fully vaccinated travellers, the UK’s recent revision of its red list still excludes vaccinated travellers from countries such as Namibia and South Africa.

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