Coronavirus Halts Migrant Transport NGO Activity in Italy

Getty Images

The coronavirus outbreak that has led to the quarantine of all of Italy has stopped the activity of migrant transport NGOs in the Mediterranean.

Migrant transport NGOs have seen their ships remain in dock due to the spread of the coronavirus with the last activity taking place in late February when the NGO Sea Watch was able to land 194 migrants in the country.

Arrivals of migrants in their own boats from North Africa have also halted since February 28th, according to a report from Italian newspaper Il Giornale, which states that the last boat to depart from the area took place off the coast of Libya and was intercepted by the local coastguard.

The NGO Alarmphone, which monitors distress calls in the Mediterranean sea, has also seen a near-total drop off in activity in the North African region and has been focusing on the Greek sea border with Turkey for most of the month of March,  only reporting a shipwreck near Tunisia on Wednesday.

The migrant transport NGOs, meanwhile, have written a letter to the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development expressing their concerns over the coronavirus outbreak and how they can continue to operate, likely fearing a collapse in donation money.

Alessandro Metz, the owner of the Mare Jonio vessel, which had been seized last year by former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, said his group Mediterranea Saving Humans was still collecting donations.

“What is happening in Italy is making people reconsider what it means to be ‘the other’, as ports are closed for the Italians. Furthermore, as far as I know, there is no evidence of cases, not even one, of coronavirus that have struck a migrant in Italy,” he told HuffPost.

So far in March, not a single illegal migrant is known to have landed in Italy. The current figures are a stark reversal of the last several months since the formation of the leftist coalition between the Democratic Party and the Five Star Movement.

A report released last year showed landings around the end of February in 2020 had increased by 948 per cent compared to the previous year in which Salvini served as interior minister and enacted a policy to ban migrant transport NGOs from Italian ports.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.