Amid the deadly outbreak of the coronavirus infection in Italy, 34 migrants who were rescued last week from the Mediterranean Sea last week have been placed in quarantine by the country's authorities.
The migrants were transferred to the Italian Rubattino ferry in Palermo, Sicily, by Aita Mari, the rescue boat operated by the Spanish NGO Salvamento Maritimo Humanitario, on Sunday.
Two-week quarantine aboard ferry
They will have to spend two weeks aboard the ferry along with another 147 people rescued from the sea on April 17 by the Alan Kurdi, a vessel operated by the German NGO Sea Eye, reported Efe news
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 quarantined 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.
Italy and Malta say ports unsafe for arrivals
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 April 13 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 April 18. He warned there were no medical staff on board the boat to assist the migrants. Following the rescue on April 13, it was denied port access in Lampedusa and so headed to Italy.
(With inputs from agencies)