Post-Pandemic is Pre-Pandemic – what role can free movement zones and cross-border identities play?

During the upcoming 6th Border Management and Identity Conference BMIC in Bangkok on December 7-9, Stephan Hofstetter will be speaking on Free Movement Zones in Pre/Post-Pandemic times.



“Free travel" is usually associated with the opposite of "being locked up". It means business trips, leisure and family travel to interesting places, study abroad, but also migration and sometimes cross-border crime. In any case, freedom of travel is seen as a driver for the global economy.


With the outbreak of the COVID pandemic in 2019/2020, the world was reminded of the missed opportunities to improve preparedness. While SARS, MERS and Ebola were dramatic realities for populous regions, they were more marginalised. And the memory of the Spanish flu in 1918 has been archived.


Technology has moved on, with harmonised biometric travel documents and standardised protocols for passenger data exchange. Digital travel credentials and visual digital seals for health certificates open up new possibilities.


However, countries must make a conscious effort to strengthen their existing legal systems and then integrate them with other human and technological efforts and coordination to ensure frictionless borders (Free movement of people does not necessarily mean borderless travel). Many lessons have been learned; however, two risks need to be urgently mitigated:

  • slackening of momentum to take all reasonable measures to prepare for future emergencies.

  • review by the global community and stakeholders to prevent discriminatory, dysfunctional or privacy compromising systems.

Finally, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the right to freedom of movement deserves our attention and readiness.


The learnings from various interviews with government offices and inter-regional associations will be shared on Day 3, 11:40 ICT / UTC+7. And over 30 other speakers primarily from government and inter-governmental agencies will be sharing their knowledge over the three days of the conference.


About BMIC: The conference and exhibition were founded by IOM and APSCA as an initiative to support improvements in border and identity management, with a focus on the Asia Pacific region. The biennial meeting has a specific focus on fostering border and identity governance through closer consultation and cooperation between the key stakeholders in the sphere of identity management. Join the exchange at https://cb4ibm.iom.int/bmic6