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#LoveIsNotTourism: The binational couples separated by Covid-19

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The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough and lonely for many but it has been particularly challenging for binational couples who have been separated by travel restrictions.

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Whilst most people were stocking up on toilet paper and hand sanitiser right before the shelter-in-place order was issued last spring in New York City, Andrea Hazen was buying paintbrushes, oil paints and canvases.

She sat alone in her light-filled Manhattan apartment, painting and listening to jazz, throughout the hardest months of the pandemic. When the city began to open up, she started playing tennis at the concrete courts across from her apartment block.

Andrea has not been able to travel to see her partner, Édouard Mauvais-Jarvis, who lives in Paris, for seven months.

A mutual friend introduced the the couple eight and a half years ago when Édouard was visiting New York and they instantly connected. They live in separate countries but their lives are intertwined: they own properties and pets together and usually see each other at least every six weeks. But the pandemic changed all that.

“Its become unbearable,” Andrea confided. “You know, a couple of months I can bear being apart… this is just unreal.”

Andrea Hazen, Art Advisor at Hazen Art Advisory in NYC with her French partner, Edouard Mauvais-Jarvis, Scientific and Environmental Director Parfums Christian Dior. © Jessica Le Masurier

Andrea and Édouard FaceTime each other every day but it is no substitute for human contact. “I miss that physical presence,” Édouard explained. “Sometimes, you just want to be able to sit next to each other and not say anything. Thats the hardest part.”

Andrea is waiting for the French consulate to issue her what is known as a "laissez-passer", a pass that gives her permission to travel to France from the United States.

Her apartment is filled with her "pandemic paintings". One features the view from the Monoprix parking lot, near where Édouard lives in Meudon, southwest Paris.

A painting by Andrea Hazen of the view from the Monoprix parking lot in Meudon, France.
A painting by Andrea Hazen of the view from the Monoprix parking lot in Meudon, France. © Andrea Hazen

Many other binational couples are in the same situation because non-essential travel to the European Union is currently banned from multiple countries, including the US, unless you are an EU citizen, a resident or you have direct family there.

Unmarried couples have to prove their ties and wait for permission and this can take a long time. Sometimes the requests are not approved.

When Lauren Child, from Richmond, Virginia found herself separated from her French boyfriend, Xavier Sobanski, she joined a worldwide social media campaign called #LoveisNotTourism”, which aimed to lobby European countries to make exemptions to the ban.

Members of the group, including Lauren, worked hard to come up with innovative ways to raise awareness of their plight, including creating a video montage of couples separated due to the travel restrictions and circulating it on social media. The group even won over several French politicians including the Senator for French citizens living abroad, Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, who lobbied for their cause.

La France met en place un dispositif spécifique pour les partenaires de vie séparés par la fermeture des frontières. Dès cette semaine, une demande de laissez-passer peut être déposée auprès du consulat 🇫🇷 le plus proche. Ce virus naime pas lamour, nous si ! #LoveIsNotTourism https://t.co/MMIvzseBXa

— Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne (@JBLemoyne) August 8, 2020

On August 8, the French Minister of State for TouRead More – Source