A view of the Pian del Lago migrant reception center in Caltanissetta, from which 184 migrants fled on July 26, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/with permission from Giornale Nisseno
A view of the Pian del Lago migrant reception center in Caltanissetta, from which 184 migrants fled on July 26, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/with permission from Giornale Nisseno

Dozens of migrants escaped a quarantine facility in Porto Empedocle in Sicily Monday, a day after nearly 200 others fled a separate holding center. Meanwhile, local mayors in southern Italy say they cannot keep up with a sharp rise in migrant arrivals.

On Monday, dozens of migrants slipped out of a windowless tent set up by a civil protection unit in Porto Empedocle on Sicily's western coast, news agency AFP reports.

The migrants had been sent there for a 14-day quarantine after arriving in the country.

According to news reports, the tent, with a capacity of 100 people, was packed with more than 500 migrants. 

The interior ministry on Monday said in a statement that most of the migrants had been found, and none of those tested so far had coronavirus.

Earlier, the mayor of Porto Empedocle, Ida Carmina, had condemned the inhumane conditions and called on the government and European Commission to intervene.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said it was "inconceivable" that anyone would flout quarantine rules. "Migrants or not, if they were Italian, I would have said the same thing. This is a public health issue here. The virus hasn't disappeared," Di Maio wrote on Facebook.

Mass escape from Caltanissetta

Other migrant escapes have also occurred elsewhere in Sicily. On Sunday, 184 migrants fled from the Pian di Lago migrant reception center in Caltanissetta where some 350 people were in mandatory quarantine.

As of Monday morning, law enforcement had relocated 125 of the migrants, all of whom will be returned to quarantine, ANSA reports.

The mayor of Caltanissetta, Roberto Gambino, said none of the migrants had tested positive for coronavirus. However, concern is rising. 

Gambino said he will "ask the government not to send any more migrants to Pian del Lago."

"They all tested negative, but that's not the point," he said. "I am asking for maximum safety for the facility, because they cannot be contained in this way," he said.

Other migrants fled in the days leading up to Sunday, regional president Nello Musumeci said.

"I demand respect for Sicily, it cannot be treated like a colony," he wrote on Facebook.

"We have shown our willingness and ask for reciprocity, but we see that in the management of the migratory phenomenon there is too much improvisation and superficiality."

Navy ship for quarantine

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese told Musumeci the government would deploy a navy ship "in the next few days" to serve as a quarantine facility for migrants, a ministry statement said.

This comes after the interior ministry issued a new call for tenders to find a quarantine ship for migrants who disembark on Italian shores. The call for tenders for "a show of interest for rental service of a naval unit flying an Italian and/or EU flag" was published on the interior ministry website and the deadline for submissions is noon on Wednesday, July 29.

Migrant arrivals up

Meanwhile, pressure from arrivals on southern Italian coasts isn't letting up. Hundreds of migrants disembarked last week, sending the Lampedusa migrant hotspot into chaos.

By Saturday July 25, the hotspot was hosting 1,027 people: 10 times more than the facility is able to hold.

The island's mayor, Toto Martello, has been calling on the government for days to intervene. "The situation has become unmanageable. If the government doesn't, I will declare a state of emergency," Martello told reporters on Saturday. 

Around 50 of the latest arrivals are being kept in tents at Lampedusa port due to a lack of other accommodation options, ANSA reported. Regular transfers of migrants to Porto Empedocle in Sicily – some 200 were taken there on Friday – are not enough to ease the pressure, dpa reports.

With ANSA, AFP, dpa 


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