Rome, Apr 17 (efe-epa).- A group of 147 migrants who have spent 12 days at sea will be quarantined on a ferry off the coast of Italy, authorities said Friday.
Scores of people on board the Alan Kurdi ship, operated by German charity Sea-Eye, were due to be transferred on Friday afternoon to a ferry docked in the Italian port of Palermo, on the island of Sicily.
They will spend two weeks in isolation on the vessel as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic before being relocated to various countries in the European Union.
The Aita Mari ship, run by Spanish NGO Salvamento Maritìmo Humanitario (Humanitarian Sea Rescue), with 36 rescued migrants onboard has been asked to sail to Lampedusa to the west of Sicily.
Several people were previously evacuated from the vessel for medical reasons and others were believed to have been transferred to a passenger ferry for quarantine but this had not been confirmed.
Italian authorities have used this method to isolate migrants crossing the Mediterranean after the country closed its ports due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The prefect of Palermo Antonella De Miro and the city’s mayor Leoluca Orlando said in a video conference meeting with the Rescue Coordination Centre that the Rubattino ferry, run by the Tirrenia company, would be used as a health centre.
Potential hospitals have also been alerted and prepared in case they need to carry out coronavirus tests or treatment on those on board.
A separate area has also been prepared to isolate potential patients and assistance will be provided by the Red Cross.
Sea Eye manager Gorden Isler tweeted in German: “We are very grateful to the Italian transport minister Paola De Micheli for the humanitarian solution they have found in the midst of an incomparable crisis. Thanks also to the coast guard.”
The situation aboard the Alan Kurdi had become desperate and several people had been evacuated due to health issues.
On Thursday a man threw himself into the sea in an attempt to swim to the coast and was rescued by Spanish aid worker Salva Perelló.
Several political representatives, including Sicily’s president Nello Musumeci and Orlando, have called for a solution to deal with the health and humanitarian needs emerging from the pandemic.
Orlando had maintained contact in recent days with the Alan Kurdi, which has flown Palermo’s flag as a symbol of gratitude.
German NGO Sea-Watch, Italian organisation Mediterranea and Alarm Phone, a hotline service for migrants in distress at sea, have urged authorities to rescue people at sea amid fears that 12 migrants died as they tried to reach Europe from Libya. EFE-EPA