Italy Ends Use of Quarantine Ships As Migrant Numbers Surge

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 set to end the use of quarantine ships for migrants arriving in Italy by sea as migrant arrivals rise.

While just two of the original five quarantine ships are still in use by the government, Italy has decided to scrap their use for quarantining recently arrived illegal immigrants and allow them to return to their original purpose as ferries.

The Italian Health Ministry ordered Tuesday that the use of the two remaining quarantine ships, the Azzurra and Aurelia, which are off the coast of Lampedusa and Pozzallo, will no longer be used for quarantine measures going forward, the European Union-funded website InfoMigrants reports.

Any health measures directed at migrants upon their arrival in Italy will now be on the Italian mainland, rather than at sea as some have predicted that illegal arrivals could surge over the summer months.

Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamogese stated late last month that she expects the number of migrant arrivals to surge due to the lack of grain shipments from Ukraine, creating a food crisis in North Africa and the Middle East.

“We are concerned because the situation is serious for those African countries, such as Tunisia and Egypt, which take 50 per cent of cereals from Ukraine and Russia and are now in difficulty,” Lamorgese said.

Egyptians and Tunisians account for the largest shares of illegals arriving in Italy so far this year along with Bangladeshis.

According to InfoMigrants, humanitarian groups have criticised the use of quarantine ships, which were initially rolled out during 2020, the first year of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.

During the summer of 2020, tensions aboard the ships among the migrants were also reported with protests and small revolts taking place on the Azzurra in August of that year as some migrants thought at the time they were being returned to Tunisia.

The quarantine ships were also expensive for Italian taxpayers, costing an estimated 4,000 euros per month per migrant to house illegals aboard the vessels.

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



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