Italian authorities have run COVID-19 tests on 180 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean seas before their scheduled transfer to a quarantine vessel in Sicily, an interior ministry source said.
SOS Méditerranée, the operator of the Ocean Viking said the migrants have been stuck on the vessel for over a week, with fights and suicide attempts onboard, prompting the charity to declare a state of emergency on Friday.
Tensions have risen in the past week, as witnessed by an AFP reporter aboard the boat, as migrants have become increasingly desperate to reach land. Others have become distraught at not being able to telephone their families to let them know they were safe.
A medical team sent by authorities in Pozzallo, Sicily “ascertained the absence of particular health problems and also reported that some tensions that had been registered on the ship are being overcome”, the ministry source said on Saturday.
The medical team is testing the migrants for the COVID-19 virus after which they will be transferred to a quarantine ship currently in Porto Empedocle, also in Sicily.
“The situation is carefully monitored in view of the transhipment of migrants, scheduled for Monday 6 July, on the Moby Zaza ship,” the source said.
The migrants, which include Pakistanis, North Africans, Eritreans, Nigerians and others, were picked up after fleeing Libya in four separate rescues by the Ocean Viking on June 25 and 30.
The migrants include 25 minors, most of whom are unaccompanied by adults, and two women, one of whom is pregnant.
More than 100,000 migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean last year with more than 1,200 dying in the attempt, according to the International Organization for Migration.
The arrival of summer and more favourable conditions at sea may lead to an increase of attempts to cross the Mediterranean with the hope of arriving in Europe. (Source: The Guardian)