Migrants transferred from overcrowded Italian island facility

LAMPEDUSA ISLAND, Italy (AP) — With the help of a local fishing boat, hundreds of migrants were transferred on Saturday to a ferry from a tiny Italian island to relieve severe overcrowding during the pandemic at a residence for asylum-seekers.

After their transfer on Saturday, they must spend 14 days in precautionary quarantine on the ferry. The vessel was one of several chartered by the Italian government, after Lampedusa’s mayor and Sicily’s governor complained about the risk of spreading COVID-19.

After so many migrants arrived this summer, some of them rescued at sea, others reaching the island’s shores without help, Lampedusa’s migrant centre held 2,000 people despite a capacity of less than 200.

Lampedusa Mayor Salvatore Martello said 752 migrants were transferred. The Red Cross said none of them are positive for COVID-19. The migrants will receive COVID-19 tests once they settle aboard and again at the end of their stay. After quarantine, the migrants will be taken to a residence on Sicily or the Italian mainland while their asylum applications are processed.

Migrants wait to board a coast guard ship that will take them to the GNV Rhapsody ferry moored off Lampedusa island, Italy. PHOTO: AP