Migrants are swabbed for COVID-19 upon their arrival in Pozzallo, near Ragusa | PHOTO: ANSA /FRANCESCO RUTA
Migrants are swabbed for COVID-19 upon their arrival in Pozzallo, near Ragusa | PHOTO: ANSA /FRANCESCO RUTA

As cases of COVID-19 rise in centers for migrants, Italy is sending the army to ensure compliance with the quarantine in a hotspot in Pozzallo and a reception center in Milan.

The number of migrants that have tested positive for COVID-19 in a hotspot on the island of Sicily south of the Italian mainland has risen to 73. The prefect has asked for, and been granted, a military presence to ensure compliance with quarantine measures. The army will arrive on Monday, August 17.

The army has also been sent to Milan to work alongside the police to ensure compliance with the quarantine for 44 migrants hosted in the Via Quintiliano reception center, where a migrant tested positive and was immediately transferred to appropriate facilities. The center is now in isolation and watched over by the military. 

Protests erupted on Monday evening but calm was restored on Tuesday. 

Another quarantine ship 

The GNV Aurelia ferry will be the second ship leased by the Italian interior ministry to isolate the migrants arriving in Italy. The ship will be used alongside the more spacious GNV Azzurra, currently in Sicilian waters, and will host up to 300 migrants for health-related quarantine.

The confirmation of the second ship came from the head of the Civil Liberties and Immigration Department of the interior ministry, Michele di Bari. The Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV) company had been awarded the contract "for the leasing of naval units for logistics housing assistance and health monitoring of migrants recused at sea or who arrived in national territory autonomously," di Bari said.

Making the announcement was Reggio Calabria governor Jole Santelli. 

After the first migrants arrived in Calabria amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Santelli had firmly requested that the government send a ship to quarantine those testing positive for the virus.

"Our cry for help was answered by the government," she said, noting that "the emergency is still serious and of concern and requires the maximum level of caution by all entities concerned. This is the only solution that will make it possible to avoid serious risks to the health of Calabrians." 

Criticism from former minister Salvini 

On the issue of the second quarantine ship, former interior minister and leader of the far-right party Matteo Salvini lashed out at the government, saying that he wanted to file for "damages from the government and (Interior Minister Luciana) Lamorgese for another 'cruise ship of stay' for clandestine migrants disembarking'' on Italian coasts.

He added that he wanted to express his "solidarity with Sicily, which the Conte-PD-M5S government wants to transform into a refugee camp and a lepers colony."

On the recent announcement by the interior minister of another decree on migration, which would return to the more 'wide-ranging' reception system that was dismantled by Salvini when he was minister, the far-right leader said that ''while landings continue ceaselessly and more migrants test positive, Minister Lamorgese announces changes to the security decree. Among other disasters is the return to putting clandestine migrants and true refugees at the same level, with the same type of assistance.'' 

The result, he stressed, will be ''more waste and fewer effective services for those granted international protection," claiming that this will provide an incentive for those thinking of coming to Italy in an undocumented manner. It is, he said, "a shame against which we will fight with all our strength."

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