Migrants disembark from a boat in Lampedusa on April 8, 2020 | Photo: ANSA
Migrants disembark from a boat in Lampedusa on April 8, 2020 | Photo: ANSA

Italy has closed its ports to NGO-run migrant rescue vessels due to safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. NGOs and activists have criticized this decision. Meanwhile, improved weather conditions have led to more departures of migrants, trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

The Italian government closed its ports to NGO-run migrant rescue ships on Wednesday. The foreign, interior, transport and health ministers -- respectively Luigi Di Maio, Luciana Lamorgese, Paola De Micheli and Roberto Speranza -- signed a decree, which will be valid for the entire period of the emergency.

The decree says that "for the entire period" of the coronavirus emergency "Italian ports do not ensure the necessary conditions to be ... defined as a place of safety." It also says that it is "not possible" to open Italian ports "without compromising the functionality of national health, logistic and security facilities dedicated to the containment of the spread of contagion and to the treatment of Codiv-19 patients."

Some left-wing politicians, including members of the Democratic Party, protested against the decree. However, other pro-migration politicians expressed their support for the decree. Pozzallo Mayor Roberto Ammatuna, who many in Italy see as a poster child of integration, said he was against the arrival of another NGO-run ship, the Sea Eye, because "the health of my community comes first," he said.

Alan Kurdi denied permission to dock

German-flagged rescue vessel Alan Kurdi, which is travelling towards Sicily with 150 rescued migrants on board, was denied permission to dock.

The Italian transport ministry said that the new decree applied to "cruise and passenger ships with foreign flags," passing responsibility for the Alan Kurdi to its flag state, Germany. Italy, the ministry said, is ready to collaborate "if it is certain" that Berlin will take care of the 150 migrants, although countries have nearly entirely suspended the transfer of migrants due to the coronavirus emergency.

Landings resume in Italy

Italy saw fewer migrant sea arrivals in March, but arrivals seem to be on the rise again in April, likely due to favorable weather conditions.

A reported 110 people landed in Lampedusa on Wednesday. They could not be transferred to the local hotspot because 46 people who arrived last Monday are currently in quarantine. Many of the foreigners are currently without accommodation and local residents are protesting against the situation. Mayor Totò Martello said the migrants should stay on a boat "docked in front of the port," because it is the "only solution possible" given that there is "no more space" on the island.

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