I’m a medic on a rescue ship in Italy – right now, authorities are using coronavirus as an excuse to let migrants die

Despite the pandemic, non-assistance and deliberate delays have become the new norm in Maltese and Italian rescues zones, causing more disappearances and deaths, both at sea and in Libya

Valeria Alice Colombo

Sub saharan migrants wait to be rescued by aid workers of Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms in the Mediterranean Sea, about 15 miles north of Sabratha, Libya on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. More than 120 migrants were rescued Tuesday from the Mediterranean Sea while 13 more —including pregnant women and children— died in a crammed rubber raft, according to a Spanish rescue group. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios)


31st March 2020

The coronavirus spread into Italy about one month ago. Early warnings from the authorities didn’t give the impression that the disease could bring with it thousands of deaths and, despite the reality in Wuhan, for several weeks we kept speaking about it as if it were just another seasonal flu.

At the end of February, my grandfather died. He was an old man, with comorbidity and terminal cancer. The doctors didn’t investigate too much further. But many other people died in these same weeks, and not all of them were old, or had a previous advanced chronic disease.

Soon after, the whole of Italy went into a complete lockdown. All of a sudden, everything stopped. And an issue that was dominating the news until the day before, disappeared from the general concern: the migration crisis. What would happen to it now that Italy was facing the coronavirus pandemic?

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