Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Category: work

My professional self, 2021

Since the beginning of April I have officially returned to the European University Institute. I work as Research Fellow leading the activities of the Migration Policy Centre on research and training with the School of Transnational Governance. So many different institutions in one small place!


I spent a good amount of time, over the last twelve months, trying to make sense of the different restrictions to human mobility introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Much of this work has been conducted with Andreas Perret, Jelena Dzankic, Timothy Jacob-Owens, Didier Ruedin, Daniele Pezzatini, and Pauline Lecomte.

I already told you about an article I published with some of my co-authored a couple of months ago. Now I would like to introduced the new website that we have created to present some preliminary findings and make our data easily accessible.

Our argument is that Covid-19 travel restrictions have been a global phenomenon, but their impact has varied hugely, depending on an individual’s immigration status, citizenship, employment, and place of residence. It remains to be seen whether, and to what extent, these measures will outlast the pandemic and establish a ‘new normal’ for global mobility.

A global dataset of COVID-19 restrictions on human movement

Border closures and domestic lockdowns have become a key element of governments’ action during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thanks to a joint project between the European University Institute and the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research for Migration and Mobility studies, we have created two datasets to track restrictions to human mobility. Jelena Dzankic, Didier Ruedin and I have now published an open access article on Plos One to present these resources and discuss some preliminary findings. The article is entitled: Citizenship, Migration and Mobility in a Pandemic (CMMP): A global dataset of COVID-19 restrictions on human movement.

We hope this is a useful resource and we wish to express our gratitude to all other people who participate in this project, one way or another: Andreas Perret, Nicole Wichmann, Inka Sayed, Annique Lombard, Aurelie Pont, Christina Mittmasser, Rausis Frowin, Oliver Pedersen, Petra Sidler, Leslie Ader, Paula Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik, Timothy Jacob-Owens, and Luca Bernasconi. It would have been impossible to advance with this project without the collaboration of such enthusiastic colleagues and researchers.

Swiss citizens abroad

Springer just published three volumes on ‘Migration and Social Protection in Europe and Beyond’, edited by Jean-Michel Lafleur and Daniela Vintila. I wrote an open access chapter on Diaspora Policies, Consular Services and Social Protection for Swiss Citizens Abroad. I shows that since the 1960s the Federal Council has developed encompassing social protection policies for Swiss nationals abroad, while safeguarding the working of pre-existent cantonal and charitable associations. As a result, Swiss nationals abroad can access one of the most advanced sets of social entitlements globally.

Covid-19 and the sudden death of free movement

It has been my dream to appear in a podcast. I was hoping this would happen with L10nel, but Jack never gave me a shot.

Alex Afonso finally made this dream come through. I have been his guest in the latest episode of ‘The Borders of Equality‘, the podcast he manages at the University of Leiden. We spoke about the different ways in which human movement is being restricted by governments all around the world, and what consequences this entails. The conversation is probably too long; but all in all it came out well. Thanks to Alex, we touched upon a variety of different issues and I hope we managed to provide precise figures.

Anecdote: I was supposed to meet Alex in 2013, when I was interviewed for a doctoral position at King’s College London. He was my designated supervisor. Unfortunately, Alex got robbed the night before and could not show up for the meeting. I did the interview with Adrian Blau, an extremely kind and competent professor. I got the position and a scholarship, but in the end chose to go to the European University Institute instead. Alex and I met many times afterwards. He has never been robbed again.

Restrictions on international mobility

To curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, governments worldwide have undertaken measures that radically disrupted human mobility, such as the sealing of national borders, mass evacuations and quarantines. Who are affected and in what ways?

Jelena and I have participated in two webinars, where we have presented some preliminary ideas. The first clip is about nine-minute long. It is only the two of us, discussing the most important trends that we observe. The second clip is much longer. Our presentation is one of three: the others are about the ways in which COVID-19 has curbed mobility in Africa and in South America. If you are curious about the dataset that we present, you can access it here.

I feel a bit ambivalent about these two clips. While very grateful for the opportunity to present my research, I am wary of the proliferation of webinars and youtube clips.


The Migration-Mobility Nexus

The last two weeks I worked on the video below together with a group of colleagues and friends at the nccr – on the move. The purpose of the video is to summarise our research using a simple vocabulary, explain how we work together, and show that in such peculiar times we have to come up with creative proposals.

The video is a bit long, my Italian accent is as strong as ever, and some of you might not like its flashy undertone; I do.

Photos of people on the move

For the last few months I have put aside notables photos of people on the move. There are four somehow symmetrical photos that strike me more than all the others. All of them, I realise in insight, have an aura of sacrality: maybe this is why I like them so much. I post them below, in chronological order. It feels strange to look at them in these times of forced immobility.


Hal Morey. Grand Central Terminal of New York Central Station, 1929. It depicts the sacrality of the places that we use to move around: I had to think of Morey’s picture when reading this article, recently. Here the train station appears like a cathedral. Original here.

Hal Morey - New York Central Station - 1929

Alex Webb. San Ysidro, California, 1979. Mexicans arrested while trying to cross the border to United States. Original.

Alex Webb - San Ysidro 1979.jpg

Sebastião Salgado. Churchgate Station in Mumbai, India, 1979. Original here.

Sebastiao Salgado - Churchgate Station, Mumbai - 1979

John Stanmeyer. Djibouti City, 2013. Migrants in Djibouti searching for cell signals from neighboring Somalia. Original here.

John Stanmeyer - Djibouti City - 2014


Il classismo della pandemia

Ho fatto una breve intervista con Marco Pagani di RSI (Radio Svizzera Italiana). Abbiamo parlato delle restrizioni alla mobilità e di come le loro conseguenze siano particolarmente negative per tanti lavoratori stagionali, richiedenti asilo, e tutti coloro che non possono permettersi il telelavoro.

How will governments decide who can move where in a pandemic?

I have written a short analysis for the Washington Post to explain why, in a crisis-ridden context, asylum seekers, seasonal workers, temporary workers and undocumented migrants face disproportionate risks.

How these groups fare in the 2020 pandemic will depend on how governments define “nonessential movement,” and whether they are willing to make any exceptions.