The Moby Zaza ship, where migrants were quarantined | Photo: ANSA / Carmelo Imbesi
The Moby Zaza ship, where migrants were quarantined | Photo: ANSA / Carmelo Imbesi

The concession for a quarantine ship currently being used in Italy to isolate migrants arriving on its shores is set to expire. Now the interior ministry is assessing options to keep foreign nationals arriving on boats amid the COVID-19 crisis in isolation.

The Italian interior ministry has said that if a quarantine ship is not made available to isolate migrants arriving on its shores within the next few days, it will have to lodge them in other facilities that allow for proper isolation amid the COVID-19 emergency, such as military barracks. 

The announcement came as the agreement for the use of the Moby Zaza ship, used to quarantine migrants who tested positive for the coronavirus, expired. The ship is currently located in Port Empedocle in Sicily.

The contract for the Moby Zaza has been extended for an additional ten days to make it possible for the quarantine period for those on board to be completed. 

The concession for the ship reportedly costs 1.2 million euros plus taxes for 30 days. 

Another ship will thus soon be needed between Sicily and Calabria to host any migrants that test positive for COVID-19 arriving in the coming days. 

Call for bids accelerated 

The search for a new ship is not easy, the interior ministry said. This is because most ships are already in use during the summer period and because specific onboard facilities are required. 

An initial call for bids, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said, had not received any responses. She went on to say that another call had been issued ''with an accelerated procedure. Within the next two days we will see whether we have anyone. We think we will, since we have bene told that a company is interested." 

The alternative is to find appropriate facilities on land that provide external protection and do not lead to protests among locals, as were seen previously in Calabria. The interior ministry is considering the use of military facilities such as barracks guarded by extra forces. 

Migration flows rising 

Italy has seen more migrant arrivals this year than in the first half of last year. Some 9,000 migrants have arrived in the country from Africa and the eastern borders of the EU this year so far, that's triple the number in the same period last year.

A rising number of the landings on Italian shores are done autonomously and are thus not subject to checks. Italy's interior minister is seeking allies both in Europe and on the southern shores of the Mediterranean to handle the issue.

On Monday Lamorgese took part in a videoconference with EU commissioners Ylva Johansson and Olivér Várhelyi and her counterparts from Germany, France, Spain, Malta, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania. 

Their final joint statement calls for reducing human suffering, fighting against the exploitation of vulnerable people and the loss of life at sea and on land. The minister reportedly vowed to use all means at her disposal for these ends, including partnerships to identify and persecute criminal networks exploiting vulnerable individuals. 

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