The “Covid excuse”: EUropean border violence in the Mediterranean Sea

Maurice Stierl, Deanna Dadusc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines developments along the central Mediterranean border, following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in EUrope. In response to the pandemic, EU member states enacted emergency legislation, further curtailing movements across borders. Italy and Malta declared their harbours “unsafe” for migrant arrivals, withdrew rescue operations, and installed offshore detention facilities. Though ostensibly enacted in the name of “saving lives”, these measures had the opposite effect. The article assesses how border violence has become justified by reference to the pandemic, what we call the “Covid excuse”. We highlight how people on the move were subjected to both biopolitical and necropolitical modalities of control through pushbacks, offshore containment and abandonment. Instead of being exceptional, we argue, these measures must be situated in longer continuities of EUropean border violence. We also discuss how people on the move are not only shaped by racialized border violence but enact fugitive practices of resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1453-1474
Number of pages22
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2021


  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Anthropology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Covid-19
  • European borders
  • border struggles
  • migration
  • Mediterranean Sea


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