- About Us
- Our Work
- Work With MSF
- Public Events
- Press Room
MSF in Italy, 2005
All articles on Italy »
Italy's strategic position on the Mediterranean Sea makes it an attractive destination for immigrants attempting to enter Europe. Because many immigrants arrive in need of care or become sick once they settle in the country, MSF helps provide health care and legal information to desperate boat refugees and undocumented immigrants working in the countryside. In October 2004, MSF and other nongovernmental organizations condemned the Italian government's forced removal of 300 people who had recently arrived on the island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily. MSF protested this action, calling it a violation of Italian law and international asylum conventions.
At the end of 2004, MSF signed an agreement with civilian authorities to continue its work on Lampedusa, no longer within temporary detention centers but directly in the harbor areas where refugees arrive. (The Italian government barred MSF from working in the centers after MSF published a report in 2004 that was critical of the conditions facing these refugees.) MSF staff provide initial medical screenings and follow- up for patients who are referred for urgent treatment. Teams also provide this kind of assistance in Sicily.
In southern Italy, thousands of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers work as day laborers on Italian farms. Their living and working conditions are often dismal, and they have limited access to health care. During 2004, MSF staff, traveling in a mobile clinic provided 770 medical consultations and interviewed more than 700 people in the regions of Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Sicily and Calabria. While caring for people, the MSF team collected information about their working and living conditions in areas where large numbers of foreigners gather to seek work during the growing season. They turned their findings into a scathing report on the conditions facing these desperate immigrants in an effort to raise awareness about their predicament and to advocate for a change in government policy toward this vulnerable group.
In the first half of 2005, MSF opened a project in the southern city of Naples that aims to improve access to health care for undocumented migrants.
During 2004 and early 2005, MSF transferred to local authorities a project through which it had cared for undocumented immigrants at clinics in Sicily and in Brescia, Lombardy. MSF continues to work in health clinics aiding immigrants in Rome, providing medical care and information about legal rights.
MSF has worked in Italy since 1999.
Fields of misery
The findings of MSF's March 2005 survey on the conditions facing seasonal farm workers in southern Italy are alarming. Among the approximately 700 seasonal workers interviewed for the survey, most were men between the ages of 20 and 45. Although they should have been a healthy population, 30 percent of the workers had become ill during their first six months in Italy. After 19 months in the country, 93 percent of the people surveyed needed to see a doctor. Almost all of the immigrants who sought a medical check-up by MSF were suffering from one or more health problems. The most common were infectious diseases, skin problems, intestinal parasites, mouth or throat infections and respiratory infections (including tuberculosis). The most severe illnesses were found among those immigrants who had lived in Italy the longest — 18 to 24 months.
Far from finding the easy life
— Story of A, an asylum seeker from Sierra Leone, whose story is included in the MSF report "The Fruits of Hypocrisy"