Exhausted but relieved to have finally arrived in Europe: after a hectic crossing from the North African coast, 180 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by the humanitarian ship Ocean Viking began on Monday evening July 6 to disembark in Sicily, to be placed in quarantine .
In single file, surgical mask on the face and carrying their meager belongings in a backpack which had been given to them on their arrival on the Ocean Viking, the migrants, mainly Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, North Africans or Eritreans having fled Libya, began leaving the ambulance boat around 11:40 p.m. Migrants tested negative for coronavirus on Sunday by an Italian medical team were the first to be evacuated.
Two weeks of quarantine
After nine days of blockage at sea, the Italian maritime authorities had authorized Sunday the ship of the NGO based in Marseille SOS Mediterranean, on board of which is an AFP journalist, to dock in the Sicilian port of Porto Empedocle.
The migrants’ journey is far from over, however: because of the coronavirus, they should be placed in quarantine for at least two weeks on the Moby Zaza ferry, moored some 100 meters from the Ocean Viking.
This huge white ferry on which the Looney Tunes characters, Titi, the Sylvester cat or Taz are painted in color, have welcomed 200 other migrants rescued at sea by the humanitarian ship Sea Watch for two weeks, then also placed in quarantine.
Thirty of them tested positive for coronavirus will remain on board in solitary confinement. ” Red zone “, while another 169 were evacuated to shore on Monday. The vessel was then disinfected.
Since morning, the migrants of the Ocean Viking have been waiting for this landing in Sicily, looking at the coast from the deck of the boat.
“I am very happy that we have finally found a safe place for a safe life”said Mohammad Irshad, a Pakistani happy to be able to celebrate his 23rd birthday soone birthday in Italy. “It was very difficult in Libya and I can’t even explain the joy we feel today, it’s just incredible”.
The wait in recent days to be allocated a port of disembarkation had created great tensions, with in particular physical threats to the SOS Mediterranean team emanating from a small group of North Africans who had pushed the NGO to declare Friday a state of emergency for the first time in its history.
“The unnecessary delay of this landing put lives in danger”, explained SOS Mediterranean, deploring in particular the absence of “Solidarity” European.
The resumption of activity for the Ocean Viking took place against a background of strong resumption of crossings of the central Mediterranean. And Italy fears that the largest contingent of humanitarian ships will arrive.
The mayor of Porto Empedocle demanded Monday before the journalists massed on the port the sending of the army for “Protect citizens”, deploring the arrival of migrants when Sicily, a poor province in the far south of Italy, suffered greatly from the confinement.
“The image given to Italians and internationally is negative with the many cases of coronavirus. Here [en Sicile], we have made considerable efforts to ruin ourselves economically to avoid contamination. There is none here. My town sees its image tarnished “ when she is counting on the resumption of the tourist season to restart her business, added Ida Carmina.