Migrants being transferred from the Cara di Mineo centre, near Catania, to other facilities in Sicily | Photo: ANSA/Orietta Scardino
Migrants being transferred from the Cara di Mineo centre, near Catania, to other facilities in Sicily | Photo: ANSA/Orietta Scardino

Migrants should be housed in reception centers even if they no longer meet the requirements for housing, the Italian interior ministry said in a circular sent to prefects amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Italian interior ministery has sent a circular to prefects' offices declaring that all migrants currently in reception centers should stay there until the end of the measures to combat the Covid-19 emergency.

Some 85,000 migrants are hosted in the Italian reception system and many no longer meet the requirements to remain in the interior ministry facilities or in the SIPROIMI reception system managed with town councils.

These include...
  • asylum seekers whose requests have been rejected
  • unaccompanied minors who have reached the age of adulthood
  • guests of local agencies with expiring time limits
  • those detained in repatriation centers beyond the maximum time allowed
The Italian government is worried that if migrants were to be released from the centers, they could move to a different region and spread the novel coronavirus across the country.

Prevention measures needed in centers

The head of the interior ministry's department of civil liberties and immigration, Michele Di Bari, thus sent out a circular to prefects, urging them to "ensure struct compliance with containment measures for the virus established at the national level within the reception facilities."

In his letter, Di Bari also reiterated ''the need to ensure that, within the centers, the necessary hygiene, healthcare and prevention measures are adhered to."

He also said that specific areas inside the centers should be set aside to use for the application of the measures of health surveillance, self-isolation or home stays.

Quarantine for newly arrived migrants

How does Italy currently deal with newly arrived migrants? Di Bari wrote that they will be subjected to coronavirus tests and that they will have to go into self-isolation for 14 days. "Only at the end of that period and only if no cases of the virus have been found,'' his circular said, ''can the migrants be transferred, if necessary, to another reception center after the issuance of an appropriate health certificate."

There has been a drop in arrivals in recent days, with 241 migrants landing on Italian shores in March.

Italy is been among the countries that has been hit the hardest by the worldwide coronavirus epidemic. The country has over 128,000 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to John Hopkins University. There have been over 15,800 deaths connected to Covid-19 in Italy.

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