Italy places 34 migrants in quarantine

Rome, Apr 19 (efe-epa).- Italian authorities on Sunday placed 34 migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea by Spanish boat Aita Mari last week in quarantine amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak in the European country.

The rescue boat, run by Spanish NGO Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario, transferred the migrants to the Italian Rubattino ferry in Palermo, Sicily.

They will have to spend two weeks aboard the ferry along with another 147 people rescued from the sea on 17 April by the Alan Kurdi, a vessel operated by German NGO Sea Eye.

Red Cross assistants will remain on board the quarantine ferry, which is stationed a mile off Palermo.

The Italian government organized the transfer via the coastguard service but has blocked migrant disembarkation at the ports themselves as one of its measures against the spread of Covid-19.

The ministry of infrastructure and transport said the transfer of the migrants to a quarantine boat was a “humanitarian” act.

“The humanitarian act of transferring them to Italian ports is not possible at this time due to the strong pressure on the health system in this emergency phase due to Covid-19,” it said in a statement.

The Italian and Maltese governments have both ruled their ports unsafe for migrant arrivals during the pandemic.

The Aita Mari had pulled out of the Italian port of Syracuse on its way to Spain on Monday but was alerted to the presence of a dinghy with 44 people, whom it rescued with the help of Maltese authorities. Later, 10 migrants were evacuated for health reasons.

The captain of the vessel, Marco Martínez had requested help on Saturday.

He warned there were no medical staff on board the boat to assist the migrants.

Following the rescue on 13 April, it was denied port access in Lampedusa and so headed to Italy. EFE-EPA


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