Italian police during a search operation for migrants that fled the Taranto hotspot in southern Italy | Photo: ANSA/Concetta Rizzo
Italian police during a search operation for migrants that fled the Taranto hotspot in southern Italy | Photo: ANSA/Concetta Rizzo

Dozens of migrants recently escaped from reception centers and hotspots in central and southern Italy. In Umbria, 23 Tunisians escaped facilities to which they had been assigned to spend a quarantine period. They had all tested negative for COVID-19. Another 20 migrants fled a hotspot in Taranto.

25 Tunisians were transferred from Agrigento to the Umbrian town of Gualdo Cattaneo in central Italy on Thursday (July 16). On Saturday evening, 23 of them reportedly escaped the facilities to which they had been assigned to spend a quarantine period.

They had all tested negative for COVID-19, the prefect's office in the Umbria town of Perugia said on Sunday morning during a meeting with security forces.

Search operations were still underway on Monday. Two of the 23 migrants were found in the area on Sunday and taken back to the reception facilities. They may be given a fine for violating the quarantine.

Political debate

The local mayor complained that he had not been sufficiently informed on the matter. "I was only informed in the morning [ed. note: when the migrants arrived], via email," Mayor Enrico Valentini said, lamenting that "the local authorities are excluded entirely from choices on the issue of migrants, even though they should be part of the process."

The issue has sparked a political debate in Italy. Opposition parties the League and Forza Italia announced a parliamentary interrogation on the incident.

Forza Italia senator Fiammetta Modena said that the interior ministry "will not only have to explain why the decision was made to send 25 migrants to Gualdo Cattaneo, an Umbrian municipality that has a high number of COVID-19 infections and that for 15 days was a red zone. She [ed. note: Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese] will also have to explain why there was no connection with the mayor." She added that, above all, the interior minister ''will have to tell us where the 23 migrants that disappeared went."

"The management of migrants by the government has been superficial, to put it mildly," League MP Virginio Caparvi commented on the incident.

20 migrants fled Taranto hotspot

Also on Saturday, another 20 migrants fled a hotspot in the southern town of Taranto, in the Puglia region. They had arrived on the island of Lampedusa in the days prior. After being identified, they were sent to the center on the mainland, from where they were supposed to be transferred to other centers. The Taranto police headquarters on Sunday confirmed they had escaped.

According to police, other migrants hosted at the hotspot had also attempted to leave the facilities, which are located near the port, but had been stopped by the police.

About a hundred migrants were transferred to Taranto from Lampedusa last week. During the identification procedure, police arrested a 31-year-old Tunisian who had re-entered Italy despite having been issued a deportation notice by the Palermo police headquarters in September 2019.

Recently the Pannella association caimed that the Taranto hotspot was being used for "functions that violate the law." They said that even though the facilities were designed only for the identification of migrants and not for hosting them, they were being used as reception facilities. "They do not meet the minimum requisites for reception facilities," the organization said.
 

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