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Coronavirus: Italy sends military to Sicily as hundreds of migrants flee quarantine

Italy’s Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese has announced plans to send the military to Sicily after some 100 migrants violated quarantine and fled a detention centre there on Monday.

Lamorgese said later in a statement that most of them had been “tracked down” and all had tested negative for coronavirus.

But Sicily’s governor Nello Musemeci said the migration issue was being treated with “improvisation” and “superficiality”, adding that Sicily is not “a colony”.

The migrants reportedly left a tent guarded by a Civil Protection unit in the town of Porto Empedocle, western Sicily, where they were supposed to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

According to media reports, the facility was hosting 500 migrants despite having the capacity for just 100.

The incident comes after 184 migrants — all of whom tested negative for COVID-19 as well — fled another detention centre in Sicily on Sunday, in Caltanissetta.

Foreign minister Luigi Di Maio said 125 of them have been found but expressed concerns that such incidents may hamper Italy’s efforts to control the coronavirus crisis.

“The virus has not gone. Italian citizens, just like me, need to keep abiding by the rules which we gave ourselves, and the same stands for tourists and those entitled to international protection,” he said.

Italy’s currently dealing with a growing influx of migrants from Tunisia which is putting migration centres under stress.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that, as of July 24, almost half of the 11,000 migrants who have arrived in Italy came from Tunisia.

The situation prompted interior minister Lamorgese to fly to the country on Monday for a meeting with Tunisian President Kais Saied.

According to the Italian authorities, President Saied pledged to “intensify checks at the sea frontiers to battle migrant trafficking activities”.

Giorgia Meloni, leader of Brothers of Italy, the country’s second opposition party, called on the government to “immediately” stop any migrant disembarking activity in the Italian ports.

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