Nello Musumeci is Sicily's regional governor | Photo: ANSA
Nello Musumeci is Sicily's regional governor | Photo: ANSA

The Italian government has vowed to block a move by the governor of Sicily to empty out the migrant hotspots and reception centers in the region. The centers were ordered to implement stringent anti-COVID measures by next Tuesday or they would be closed down.

Tension is rising between Italy's central government in Rome and the regional government in Sicily.

The central government has announced that it will contest an order issued by Sicilian governor Nello Musumeci last week. Musumeci has meanwhile ordered prefects to implement it, and said that he will take the matter to court. 

Order to clear migrant centers

The Sicilian governor on August 22 ordered all hotspot and migrant reception centers that do not meet anti-COVID regulations to close by this Tuesday at midnight. Because most of these centers are very crowded, putting adequate anti-coronavirus measures in place within ten days is close to impossible for most centers.

This is particuarly the case on Lampedusa, an island that belongs to Sicily and that has seen many migrant arrivals in recent weeks. In the hotspot on the island, there are over 1,000 migrants.

Headed to court

Musumeci said that he was "the public health authority in Sicily and ... the one in charge of implementing anti-COVID measures." He added: "I have the duty to note that state locations in which the central government amasses hundreds of human beings are not in compliance with any anti-COVID measure."

On Tuesday evening, Musumeci sent a warning statement to the prefects' offices for them to implement the order. In the letter, he asked, among other things, for a timetable to be established regarding how people would be released from the hotspots, given that many are currently overcrowded and do not allow for sufficient social distancing.

The central government responded to this by saying that they were planning to file an appeal against Musumeci's regional measure since the issue of migrants is the exclusive preserve of the state.


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