Purgatory at sea
Off the coast of Italy, cruise ships are being repurposed as holding pens for migrants rescued from the Mediterranean.
Last fall, I spent time on a passenger vessel off the coast of Italy called La Suprema, which, along with a handful of other cruise ships, has served as a holding pen for migrants rescued from the Mediterranean. No journalist had previously been allowed on board any of these vessels.
Thousands of migrants are quarantined aboard these vessels in order to keep them from bringing COVID‑19 ashore. I wanted to see the conditions on the quarantine ships for myself, but the Italian government had forbidden any journalists from boarding. So I applied to the Red Cross to work as a volunteer, and on a balmy, cloudless day in November 2020, I boarded the ship.
There, I met with Francesco Taskayali, a musician who has produced work for The Outlaw Ocean Music Project. I wrote about my experience in The Atlantic, which you can read here and in the June print edition.