The transfer of migrants on to the ferry Rubattino off the coast of Palermo | Photo: Reuters
The transfer of migrants on to the ferry Rubattino off the coast of Palermo | Photo: Reuters

On Sunday, 34 migrants who had been on board the rescue ship Aita Mari, joined 146 migrants taken from another rescue ship, the Alan Kurdi, in quarantine aboard a ferry off the coast of Palermo. The migrants are expected to spend 14 days on the ferry.

On Sunday morning footage taken from the Italian coast guard and the Italian news agency ANSA showed the transfer of 34 more migrants to the Rubattino ferry owned by the Italian company Tirrenia. The migrants had been rescued by the Spanish rescue ship on April 13

On the Rubattino ferry, they joined 146 migrants who had been aboard the Alan Kurdi and were transferred to the Rubattino on Friday, April 17.The transfer of migrants from the Alan Kurdi to the Rubattino della Tirrenia ship where they will be kept in quarantine | Photo: ImagoThe 180-meter-long Rubattino is built to carry a total of 1,471 passengers and has 289 cabins, a medical center, restaurant, bars and a children’s play area. According to the news agency AFP, it is not clear if each migrant would be confined to an individual cabin, but they are expected to stay on board for at least 14 days before being distributed among various EU countries, as per an agreement last September in Malta.

Safe and sound

The ferry is currently moored off the coast of the Sicilian capital Palermo.After the transfer, the Spanish rescue organization, which operates the Aita Mari, tweeted: "Everyone is safe and sound, thank you for the support."

More needs to be done

On Sunday, the German rescue organization Sea-Eye, which operates the Alan Kurdi, posted a video celebrating the fact that those on board the Alan Kurdi and the Aita Mari were transferred safely but that "five people are dead and seven missing because Malta did not send any help."

In the video, various crew members read from statements from the organization. They say that countries like Italy and Malta which declared their ports closed during the coronavirus restrictions are "wrong," saying that closing the ports is "deadly."

"It is wrong to instrumentalise the coronavirus to seal yourselves off," said one statement. "It is irresponsible to demand that the rescue of human lives discontinues," said another. They asked EU member states to "reinstate national sea rescues immediately," as well as showing solidarity with Italy "and assume responsibility together."

'Unprecedented solidarity from Italy'

On Friday, April 17, the organization Sea-Eye issued a press release.

In it, they stated that they had experienced "unprecedented solidarity from people and authorities in Italy," even whilst the country was experiencing many troubles due to the devastation wreaked by the fight against COVID-19. They said Luca Casarini, the Italian sea rescuer had written to the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. The Pope had replied "unequivocally stand[ing] behind all civilian sea rescuers." The mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, also deserved a "special mention," said Jan Ribbek, head of operations with Sea-Eye in the press release.Mayor Leoluca Orlando has given honorary citizenship of the city to the crews of three boats who have committed themselves to the rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean | Photo: Picture-allianceThey called Orlando an "important advocate for the human rights of the rescued people and the crew of the Alan Kurdi." Ribbek said that Orlando had been in contact every day to check on progress and called his commitment "essential for the end of this blocade."

The crew of the Alan Kurdi also now face a 14-day quarantine aboard their own ship. They are planning to launch a new operation in May but they said that due to the coronavirus crisis, they are experiencing a drop in donations and urge people to donate so that they can continue saving lives as soon as they are able.


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