Migrants wearing protective face masks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), prepare to board a ferry that will transfer them to the mainland, at the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece, March 20, 2020 | Photo:  Reuters/Elias Marcou
Migrants wearing protective face masks as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), prepare to board a ferry that will transfer them to the mainland, at the port of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, Greece, March 20, 2020 | Photo: Reuters/Elias Marcou

To combat the coronavirus pandemic, many European countries have gone into lockdown. People can no longer move around freely, and many administrative services have been significantly reduced. How is this affecting asylum seekers in Italy, Germany and other countries across Europe? InfoMigrants asked its Facebook users.


Lucky A. is an asylum seeker in the Lazio region in Italy. He said he is "badly affected" by the quarantine. Food is one of his biggest concerns. He lives by himself and does not have money to buy food. "At the moment we can't go out to beg ... because of the movement restrictions from the government." He feels that "no one cares for us at the moment."

Other migrants in Italy also told us that not being able to leave the house means they have to stay without food.

No work means no food

Bob K., a migrant in Florence, said the lockdown is beginning to threaten his existence. "My life is really hard with this coronavirus outbreak. Before the quarantine I used to work but it was not a contract. I work by day and have my pay for one week," he told us. But now, he said, he has "nothing to pay (for the house) for next month." He said he has asked his neighbors for help but has not gotten a response.

Alieu D. from The Gambia commented: "I am not blaming anyone for this sickness but if they tell people to stay at home, they have to consider the homeless and poor people."

No one to turn to

Ronaldo B. said that even before the coronavirus crisis, life was often difficult for migrants in Italy. He said they face "racial discrimination, marginalization, dehumanization, (and) devilish treatment by the authorities," as well as "shortages of food due to lack of money." He said that things have gotten worse with the pandemic. "The most unfortunate part of our life here (is that) we don't have anywhere to forward our matters (to) and be heard," Ronaldo said.

Christopher A. told us he is "very scared of Covid-19." He lives in Salerno in the Campania region. "My (asylum) case was rejected for (the) second time on February and (I) am now homeless. In early March I went to my center to stay there because of the spreading of coronavirus and I was thrown outside. Now I sleep in an uncompleted building and I have to hide myself to walk at least 15 minutes to the camp and eat." He said he is really afraid "because I don't want to get ... Covid-19."


Refugee camps where thousands of people are crowded together in tight spaces are especially dangerous in the case of an outbreak. 

Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos is one of the main refugee hotspots. Mohammed A. described the situation there to us: "It’s impossible to live here because our environment is very dirty. (There is) rubbish, bad smell and we don't have water or electricity and also we don't have space to sleep." He said that small tents are shared by five people each. Pregnant women, children, vulnerable persons, all live together. "If coranavirus (comes) here, all 20,000 refugees will be infected in one day because we use one toilet, shower and food line. The government of Greece still (has) no solution for this situation," he told us.

'All 20,000 refugees would infect in one day'

Abrar H. from Pakistan is currently at the Corinth migrant camp near Athens. He said people are living so close together that they cannot adhere to distancing rules. "We are 15 people in one small room. There are 40 other rooms with the same amount of people with zero clearance." He told us this is dangerous, and that UN officials should know about this.

Qeys S., from Somalia, wrote: "I am also afraid (of) Covid-19 because the Greek medical teams are not as strong as in Germany or US or even Italy."


Haroon* from Afghanistan said the lockdown is not the main problem but rather the lack of food and sanitation in the Obrenovac transit center where he is staying. "We were 500 men in a refugee camp before but now we are more than 2,000, and the place is only for 400 or 500… We have a lot of problems here. The lockdown is not the problem. I know that it’s for our safety because of the coronavirus. But the problem is food, toilet, shower, doctor … We have only four toilets and four showers for these 2,000 men and it’s very hard to eat food in a dining hall and we cannot go outside to eat.“


Atiqullah H.N. said the quarantine is badly affecting him and his family in the asylum center in Germany where they are staying because they are so close together with other families. He wishes that "the authorities please take care of the people who are in asylum centers (and) give them a proper attention." 

Awo, a Nigerian migrant, said he is disappointed by the authorities. Even during the coronavirus crisis and the lockdown, "they still send people letters of asylum rejection."

Possible chance to work?

With the coronavirus lockdown, many national borders have been closed, meaning that seasonal migrant workers cannot travel anymore. In Germany, many fear that there could be a shortage of farm workers for this year's harvest. This could also mean that jobs in agriculture or other areas may be opened up to asylum seekers who are normally not permitted to work. For Adewale, an asylum seeker from Nigeria in Germany, this has already happened. "It hasn't been easy for me personally, because I have been idle for a couple of years because we were not allowed to work," he told us. Suddenly he was granted a work permit. "Now the opportunity has been given to us, and we can also give back to the country with taxes and contribute our quarter to the community," he said. "All I hope and pray the world come together to fight against this virus!," he added.


A Pakistani migrant in Paris told us that he was concerned for migrants and asylum seekers with unclear statuses in France. Those who are not allowed to work cannot earn money, he said; many do not receive benefits from the government. These people often relied on the services provided by migrant aid groups, but many of those services have been suspended because of the virus containment measures. "Right now conditions are so difficult – how do they survive without anything? Some people don’t have food -- I get many messages from people." He says it’s important that associations and the French government now offer help.

*name changed


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