The migrants were rescued by the charitable lifesaving vessel Sea-Watch 3, which recently resumed operations in the Central Mediterranean. She arrived Sunday in Porto Empedocle, Sicily, and her rescuees were transferred to the ferry Moby Zaza, which has been repurposed as a quarantine holding center for migrants. 28 out of about 200 of the new arrivals tested positive for COVID-19.
“[The positive cases] are on the ship at anchor in Porto Empedocle, a solution that we stubbornly demanded April 12 from the central government to prevent outbreaks from developing on the territory of the island, without being able to limit and control them. Today our request is better understood. And those who have raved about accusing us almost of racism, today will realize that we were right,” said Musumeci in a statement on Facebook.
Earlier this week, Sea-Watch International objected to the use of the Moby Zaza for quarantining maritime migrants. “Preventive measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 should be implemented in suitable facilities on land. The pandemic must not be used politically to create double-standards for rescue ships and to deny people seeking refuge their basic rights,” the organization wrote.
The rescue vessels Mare Jonio and Ocean Viking have also recently resumed operations in the Central Mediterranean. Ocean Viking has adopted new COVID-19 protective measures for her crew, including masks, face shields and overalls.
COVID-19 has arrived in Libya, the stepping-off point for maritime migration in the Central Mediterranean. The country’s center for disease control reported 44 new cases in a day on Tuesday, its highest daily count yet; with very limited testing capacity, the true number is expected to be higher.