The crew of the Ocean Viking is quarantined near Pozallo, Sicily, for 14 days | Photo: SOS Méditerranée
The crew of the Ocean Viking is quarantined near Pozallo, Sicily, for 14 days | Photo: SOS Méditerranée

The crews of private rescue ships have been placed under quarantine and humanitarian corridors, as well as Dublin returns, have been suspended. The coronavirus epidemic has prompted European states, mainly Italy, to take action related to migration in order to stem the spread of the virus.

As of March 5, the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has already caused the deaths of more than 3,280 people. 

More than 95,200 cases have been confirmed globally, most of them in China (around 80,500).

The vast majority of deaths were in China (3,013 of 3,300), where the virus emerged late last year. 

Nearly 80 countries are now affected. In Europe, Italy has been hit the hardest, with more than 3,080 people infected and 107 dead as of March 5.

(Note: The situation changes quickly, please see the live updates provided by the World Health Organization and the John Hopkins University for the latest figures).

The outbreak has prompted some countries to take action to try to curb the spread of the virus, some of which is related to migration.

Humanitarian ships:

Since the migrants rescued by Sea Watch 3 and the Ocean Viking disembarked, the crews of the two humanitarian vessels have been under a 14-day quarantine off the ports of Messina and Pozzallo, Sicily.

The NGOs chartering these ships, Sea-Watch and SOS Méditerranée (together with Doctors without borders, MSF), denounced the measures as unjustified.

As of February 28, there are no humanitarian vessels in the search and rescue zone.

Dublin referrals:

Due to the spread of the coronavirus, the Italian authorities have stated that they will not accept the return of "Dublined" migrants until further notice. In other words, migrants will, for the moment, no longer be sent back to Italy under the Dublin Regulation.

Switzerland, for example, announced last week that it has canceled the transfer of ten "Dubliners".

Germany announced a general suspension of returns under the Dublin regulations of migrants to and from Italy.

Humanitarian corridors:

A humanitarian corridor, through which 66 refugees were to be transported from Niger to Italy under the aegis of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), was canceled by Italian authorities on February 25 "as a precautionary measure". A family of six in which the mother is suffering from cancer was nevertheless admitted to Italy.

"The transfers to Italy will resume in a few weeks,” Alessandra Morelli, UNHCR’s representative in Niger, told InfoMigrants. Rome has asked the UNHCR teams to put health protocols in place, including reinforced fever checks for people about to be transferred to Italian soil.

Transfers from Niger to Finland and Canada took place last week.

Reinforced border controls:

After three confirmed cases of coronavirus in Greece on Thursday last week, Athens announced a tightening of its border controls, especially those on the Aegean islands to which migrants arrive from the Turkish coast.

"Our islands are already overburdened by public health problems and must be doubly protected," said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. "We will do everything in our power to prevent the outbreak of the virus - in particular [on the islands].

On March 1, Hungary announced that it is suspending the admission of migrants to its so-called 'transit zones', claiming there is a connection between coronavirus and illegal immigration. A chief security advisor to the Hungarian prime minister said the country will "defend its borders" and "not a single illegal migrant" will be allowed to enter.


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