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16 July 2020 – Romania

Refugees and Asylum Seekers Undertaking Activities in the Timisoara ETC Courtyard, (UNHCR,
Refugees and Asylum Seekers Undertaking Activities in the Timisoara ETC Courtyard, (UNHCR, "Refugees Respect Health Rules to Transit Safely Through Crisis," 5 May 2020,

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) office in Bucharest, responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, Romania has not established a moratorium on new immigration detention orders nor is it considering one. In addition, no immigration detainees have been released as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and they are not being tested for the disease. The IOM Bucharest office indicated that all removals have been halted but that no new policies were adopted in response to the pandemic. However, prevention measures were taken in all asylum centres, for instance, depending upon the migration route, newly registered asylum seekers are placed given a 14 days quarantine period.

UNHCR and their partner AIDROM, working in collaboration with the Romanian government, are taking measures to maintain business as usual at the Timisoara Emergency Transit Centre (ETC). Both staff and refugees have been provided with face masks and latex gloves and refugees have been informed of the importance of basic hygiene to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers, soap, tissues, and cleaning products have also been distributed around the centre. Some governments, such Norway’s, which periodically accept refugees housed at the ETC, have implemented measures to continue assessing potential refugees placements. Instead of having Norwegian officers travel from Oslo, the interviews are conducted online. The UNHCR representative in Romania stated that UNHCR had expressed its appreciation to “the Romanian government for its decision to keep the borders open for people fleeing war and persecution.”

Due to European lockdowns imposed in March as governments tried to contain the spread of Covid-19, many countries were left without the thousands of seasonal workers that they normally rely on, many of whom come from Romania. On 4 April, Romania’s government agreed to allow seasonal workers to fly abroad on charter flights organised by Western European farmers, provided there was agreement with the authorities in the countries of destination. In mid-May, the Romanian Transport Minister informed Parliament that there had been 188 charter flights carrying seasonal workers to Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, and Austria.

However, hundreds of Romanian migrant workers were reportedly quickly infected while working at slaughterhouses in Germany and the Netherlands. On 28 April, a coronavirus outbreak at a slaughterhouse in Berkenfeld resulted in the infection of some 200 Romanians, one of whom died. In early May, another outbreak took place at a Dutch meat-processing plant where 270 Romanians work.

In a bid to lure some migrant workers back home, the Romanian Agriculture Minister announced a package of at least 20 million EUR to support young farmers who had previously worked abroad. The minister told Parliament that the government would raise the minimum monthly wage in the agricultural sector to 3000 lei ($690 US dollars) per month to persuade Romanian migrants to remain in the country.

On 28 May, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) reported that the Romanian border guard agency had been enlarged in an effort to tighten measures to prevent “illegal” migration. ECRE also reported that all Dublin transfers, including family reunification procedures, were suspended and repatriation procedures were suspended or cancelled as air companies have cancelled flights to the Middle East and North Africa.