Sicilian president wants to expel migrants due to coronavirus risks

24.08.2020

The president of Sicily has issued a decree ordering the mass expulsion of migrants from the island because of novel coronavirus contagion risks.

 "Sicily cannot be invaded, while Europe is turning a blind eye and the government is not enacting any pushbacks," President Nello Musumeci wrote on Sunday on Facebook, publishing his decree.

However, it was unclear how the drastic initiative could be implemented. Sources at the Interior Ministry in Rome, quoted by Corriere della Sera newspaper, dismissed it.

"The management of migration flows is not a regional competence, but is ruled by national laws, so it is hard to understand how Musumeci's decree could work," the sources said.

The measure says all Sicilian migrant reception centres should cleared by midnight on Monday, with residents transferred elsewhere within Italy or Europe. It also bans all new migrant arrivals by sea. The decree is valid until 10 September and suggests that incoming sea arrivals should be hosted on quarantine ferries – a solution that has only partially been adopted by the national government.

Musumeci, who leads a right-wing administration, was praised by national opposition leader Matteo Salvini, of the far-right League, and criticised by centre-left politicians.

The decree is "exemplary," Salvini tweeted, along with three clapping hands emojis. "Utmost solidarity with Sicilian governor Musumeci," he added.

Fausto Raciti, a lawmaker from the Democratic Party, said Musumeci should rather worry about mass virus testing, strengthening the health service and preventing mass gatherings in public places.

"The hunt for the migrant, as well as being barbaric, not only does not protect Sicilians from the virus, but also disorients and frightens at a time when clarity and caution is needed," he said.

In recent weeks Italy has seen surging numbers of migrant arrivals by sea and novel coronavirus infections, but most new virus cases have been linked to people returning from holiday, not migrants.

On Saturday, Italy's daily virus caseload rose above 1,000 for the first time in more than three months. Sicily reported 48 new infections, of which 16 were linked to new migrant arrivals.

Meanwhile, interior ministry data indicated that in the January 1-August 21 period, Italy registered 17,264 migrant arrivals by sea, compared to 4,664 in the same period of 2019.

The numbers were set to keep rising, as German charity Sea-Watch said its vessel Sea-Watch 4 picked up 104 people in two separate rescues off the coast of Libya.    (dpa)

More on this topic