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Migrant Drowns While Trying to Escape Quarantine at Sicilian Seaport

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Moby Zaza (file image courtesy Eustace Bagge)

By The Maritime Executive 05-21-2020 08:32:30

A 28-year-old Tunisian migrant drowned after diving off the side of a ferry at Porto Empedocle, Sicily on Tuesday night. The vessel, the Moby Zaza, has been repurposed as a COVID-19 quarantine center for migrants. 

The individual went over the side at about 2200 hours, according to local media accounts The fall from the sixth deck was about 40 feet.

The man was wearing a life jacket, and authorities believe that he was attempting to escape the vessel in order to swim ashore. Surface conditions were somewhat rough, with waves of about six feet in height. 

The body was recovered several miles to the southeast by boat crews from the Guardia Costiera and the Guardia di Finanza.

About 120 migrants are presently on board the Moby Zaza. The ferry's new mission is to serve as a quarantine center for migrants arriving at Lampedusa and Agrigento, and she is staffed with Italian Red Cross health workers to provide for their needs. Her first passengers, a group of 10 Tunisians and 43 individuals from sub-Saharan Africa, arrived on board on May 13. 

Officials in charge of the quarantine operation had anticipated the chance that migrants might attempt to escape the vessel. Before the casualty, they declared a 300-meter security zone surrounding the ship and implemented regular law enforcement patrols to watch for potential escapees, according to local media.

"This tragedy makes it clear that it is not possible to keep people like this. With the end of the full lockdown it is time to restore minimum guarantees and rights. Now let everyone else land," said Erasmo Palazzotto, a member of parliament with the left-wing LeU party.