Coronavirus: Italy orders rescue of migrants from quarantine vessel

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A photo published by the German migrant rescue NGO Sea-Eye and taken on April 6, 2020

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Alan Kurdi, operated by the German group Sea-Eye, has been refused entry by Italy and Malta


Italy has ordered 156 migrants aboard a German rescue vessel off the west coast of Sicily to be transferred to another vessel and quarantined.

Migrants, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, must then undergo health checks, Italian officials said.

The German rescue vessel Alan Kurdi has been denied access to Italian and Maltese ports for fear of coronavirus.

The Italian Ministry of Transport said that this decision was necessary because the health services in Sicily were already overloaded.

Allowing migrants to disembark from the ship Alan Kurdi, operated by the German aid group Sea-Eye, would put too much pressure on local authorities on the island, said Italian civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli.

On Sunday, Italy as a whole reported 19,899 deaths from coronaviruses and more than 156,363 confirmed infections.

The country reported 431 deaths over a 24-hour period – the smallest daily increase in more than three weeks.

Borrelli signed a document Sunday ordering the Coast Guard, with help from the Italian Red Cross, to provide a ship “in the next few hours” to quarantine and test the 156 migrants near Italian territorial waters, local media reported.

No decision has been made on the final destination of the migrants, who have been rescued from small boats in distress off the Libyan coast, officials said.

Italy previously said that migrants rescued and brought to its shores become the responsibility of the European Union (EU) and should be fairly distributed among the member states.

Sea-Eye also called on European leaders to find a more permanent solution to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Earlier this month, the EU’s highest court – the Court of Justice of the European Communities – ruled that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic had violated EU law by refusing to accept refugees under an agreement to ease the burden on Italy and Greece.

In Greece, a number of settlements for migrants have recently been quarantined after residents tested positive for the coronavirus. Humanitarian groups have warned that an epidemic of Covid-19 in overcrowded camps – where health conditions are poor – could allow the virus to spread quickly.

So far, no cases of the virus have been confirmed in camps on five Greek islands, where around half of EU asylum seekers live.

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Media captionMigrants in a Greek camp filmed the living conditions inside and the challenges of avoiding the coronavirus

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