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Italy closes ports to migrant ships because of coronavirus

Published : Thursday, 9 April, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 160

PALERMO (Sicily), Apr 8: Italian ports cannot be considered safe because of the coronavirus epidemic and will not let migrant boats operated by charities dock, the government has ruled.
The decision was taken late on Tuesday after a ship operated by the German non-governmental group Sea-Eye picked up some 150 people off Libya and headed towards Italy.
"For the entire duration of the national health emergency caused by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Italian ports cannot guarantee the requisites needed to be classified and defined as a place of safety," the decree said.
The national emergency is set to expire on July 31, but the deadline might be extended.
Tuesday's order was signed by the interior, foreign and transport ministers, as well as Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who comes from a leftist party that has always supported migrant protection and charity operations.
After a relative lull in arrivals of boat migrants from Africa, numbers had started to pick up again in the first two months of the year only to fall back sharply in March as Italy was hit by the coronavirus epidemic.




A total of 17,127 people have died from the virus in Italy, the highest number anywhere in the world, while 135,586 cases have been confirmed since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21.
Charity ships which regularly patrol the coast of Libya looking to rescue migrants from flimsy boats initially withdrew from the Mediterranean at the onset on the health crisis, but the Sea-Eye ship Alan Kurdi returned to the area last week.     -REUTERS



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