Italy quarantines Ocean Viking ship, migrants including Pakistanis
Italian maritime authorities placed Tuesday the migrant rescue ship Ocean Viking in quarantine off the Sicilian port of Porto Empedocle, charity group SOS Mediterranee said.
Late Monday, 180 migrants on board the vessel were allowed off after nine days and taken to another boat where they will also be quarantined to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus.
The operation capped a tense few days onboard the Ocean Viking marked by migrants jumping overboard, a suicide attempt and bouts of violence.
The ship is now anchored outside the port, with an AFP correspondant on board, and the crew has been asked to respect a two-week quarantine, the charity said.
The Ocean Viking resumed migrant rescue operations on June 22 after a three-month halt owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The migrants it brought to Sicily were mainly from Bangladesh, Eritrea, North Africa and Pakistan, and included a pregnant woman and 25 minors.
Italy is now bracing for more rescue ships to arrive, with the local mayor requesting the army be deployed to "protect the citizens" of a poor region that has suffered from economic lockdowns linked to the epidemic.
Those on board exploded with joy at the announcement that their ordeal amid the cramped conditions on the Ocean Viking would soon be over, with migrants singing, applauding and taking selfies. “We have received instructions from the Italian maritime authorities to disembark those on board in Porto Empedocle,” a spokesman for the charity SOS Mediterranee said, which has a correspondent on board.