Italy Plans More Migrant Reception Facilities After New Wave of Arrivals

Two migrants ob board the Sea-Watch 4 civil sea rescue ship look on as they approach a ferry at sea off the coast of Palermo, Sicily, Italy, on September 02, 2020, in order to disembark some 350 migrants who will be under quarantine. - More than 350 migrants including those …
THOMAS LOHNES/AFP via Getty Images

The Italian government is in a race against time to acquire new facilities for incoming migrants as arrivals surge and ships previously used for quarantine will soon no longer be available.

Last year, the Italian government acquired several ships, mainly ferries, to quarantine newly arrived migrants to prevent the spread of the Wuhan virus. But with tourism returning, many companies wish to use their vessels for their original purpose.

According to a report from the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, while the companies will no longer make the four large ships available, they have offered the government other vessels — but they are much smaller.

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi was speculated by Il Giornale to be considering setting up coronavirus “hotels” at existing barracks or Red Cross facilities.

The issue is coming into focus after the Italian island of Lampedusa saw over 2,100 migrants arrive within the span of just 24 hours between May 9th and the 10th.

Lampedusa’s migrant housing centre, which has a capacity of just over 200, was rapidly filled, while several hundred more migrants were transferred to quarantine ships.

Due to high winds in the area as of Tuesday, well over 1,000 migrants remain on the island, waiting for another ship to dock and pick them up.

As many as 70,000 migrants or more are currently in Libya waiting to set sail for Europe, Il Giornale claims.

The new surge in migrants also comes after Libyan authorities released last month the alleged people-trafficker Abdel-Rahman Al-Milad, also known as Al Bija.

The European Union-funded website InfoMigrants has noted that Al Bija has been sighted in the coastal city of Zawiya, where he had formerly commanded the local coastguard.

Arrested in October of last year, Al Bija had been accused of trafficking as well as abusing migrants, but Libyan prosecutors later dropped the charges.

Al Bija has denied being linked to human trafficking and has claimed people traffickers use uniforms that look similar to those of his men.

Migrants, meanwhile, expressed fear after his release, branding him “a monster” capable of “shooting a human being as he would shoot an animal”, who “took pleasure in seeing the terror in our eyes”.

“In Libya, there is not one migrant who does not know Bija,” said one man. “He is worse than the devil.”

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


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