PortandTerminal.com, April 8, 2020
Italian ports cannot be considered safe because of the coronavirus epidemic and will not let charity refugee boats dock, the government has ruled.
ROME, ITALY – The Italian government has declared its own seaports “unsafe” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will not authorise the landing of migrant rescue boats until the end of the emergency.
In a decree issued late on Tuesday, the government wrote that “for the entire duration of the health emergency, due to the outbreak of coronavirus, Italian ports cannot be classified as ‘safe places’ for the landing of people rescued from boats flying a foreign flag”.
The measure – the first of its kind in Italian history – appeared designed to prevent rescue boats from disembarking migrants in the upcoming weeks, as departures from Libya have increased in recent days with the arrival of good weather.
It adds that “rescued people must be guaranteed an absence of any threat to their lives”, and concludes that at this time the government cannot guarantee the security of migrants’ lives in Italy.
The government decree comes after the rescue boat Alan Kurdi, operated by the German NGO Sea-Eye, rescued about 150 people and is now located a few miles from the Italian island of Lampedusa.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 18,337 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe so far this year, while 241 have died during the journey.
Alan Kurdi, named after the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in 2015, is currently the only NGO rescue boat operating in the central Mediterranean. The coronavirus outbreak has forced many charities to concentrate their aid efforts elsewhere.
After the United States and Spain, Italy has the third-largest number of coronavirus infections in the world at almost 136,000. With over 17,000 deaths caused by the virus, Italy has one of the world’s highest death rates.
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