A Tunisian man drowned after throwing himself off a COVID-19 quarantine ship at Porto Empedocle in southern Italy. NGOs have criticized the fact that rescued migrants are quarantined on ships due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 28-year-old migrant, who has not been named, jumped from the Moby Zaza ship at 4 AM on Wednesday, police said. He was likely trying to escape.
The man jumped from deck six of the ship into the sea, from a height of around 15 meters. His fellow migrants alerted the authorities. Finance police and port authorities started search operations with a helicopter and a plane. The man's lifeless body was found some 4.8 miles from the ship.
Prosecutors in nearby Agrigento have opened a probe into the death. An autopsy has been ordered and finance police will investigate.
Investigators believe that the young man was trying to escape when he jumped from the ship because he was wearing a lifebelt. Seas in the area were rough, with waves of more than two meters in height.
NGOs worried about migrants quarantined on ships
A decree allows the Italian government to quarantine migrants on ships to make sure they are not infected with COVID-19.
NGOs carrying out migrant-rescue operations in the Mediterranean said the 28-year-old Tunisian was "the first victim of illogical measures taken by the Italian government that have turned into useless and harmful tools harming the rights of rescued people."
In a statement, NGOs Mediterranea Saving Humans, Sea Watch, Proactiva Open Arms and Doctors Without Borders said that they had asked the authorities "on which legal grounds the landing of shipwrecked people is postponed when they could be quarantined ashore." They added: "Even before this tragic incident, other recent discrepancies and unacceptable showdowns at the expense of rescued people have highlighted the inadequacy of the measures adopted by the government on the issue of maritime rescue operations during the COVID-19 emergency."