“We Closed the Ports to Protect Refugees.” Hygienic Borders and Deterrence Humanitarianism during Covid-19

Tazzioli, Martina and Stierl, Maurice. 2021. “We Closed the Ports to Protect Refugees.” Hygienic Borders and Deterrence Humanitarianism during Covid-19. International Political Sociology, 15(4), pp. 539-558. ISSN 1749-5679 [Article]

MANUSCRIPT-IPS-REV.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (621kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This article investigates how the security-humanitarian rationale that underpins migration governmentality has been restructured by and inflected in light of hygienic-sanitary borders which enforce racialised confinement in the name of both migrants' and citizens' safety from infection by Covid-19. Focusing on the politics of migration containment along EUrope's frontiers, examining in particular border reinforcements carried out by Italy, Malta and Greece, we interrogate how the pandemic has been exploited to enact deterrence through hygienic-sanitary border enforcements. These enforcements are underpinned by an ambivalent security-humanitarian narrative that crafts migrants as subjects who cannot be protected by EU member states from the pandemic if allowed inside, and, at once, as potential vehicles of contagion - ‘Corona spreaders’ - and thus as dangers on a bacterial-hygienic level. Our article demonstrates that these EUropean border measures are more than temporary responses to an unprecedented health crisis. Rather, the pandemic has been seized as an opportunity to strengthen existing deterrence measures and hamper migrants' access to asylum through biopolitical and spatial tactics that aim to restructure the border regime. While emphasising the historical trajectories and continuities underwriting these current developments, we contend that the pandemic functions as an accelerator of dynamics of migrant incarceration and containment.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Additional Information:

Maurice Stierl received support from the Leverhulme Trust.

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in International Political Sociology following peer review. The version of record is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1093/ips/olab023.


migration, COVID-19, borders, migrant incarceration, migrant containment

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 September 2021Accepted
8 October 2021Published Online
December 2021Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

16 Dec 2021 11:11

Last Modified:

08 Oct 2023 01:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)