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MSF in Italy, 2006/2007
Field Staff: 31
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Thousands of migrants continue to arrive in Italy, crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat and risking their lives to reach Europe. During 2006 and 2007 there were several “tragic landings” reported, with an unknown number of deaths. Many people arrive with medical conditions related to their difficult journey, such as dehydration, skin infections caused by overexposure to the sun and salt, burns from petrol used as fuel for rubber dinghies, and respiratory infections.
Immediate medical assistance is required and MSF has established a project at landings for one of the main entry doors to Europe, the island of Lampedusa. In 2006, MSF assisted more than 18,000 migrants arriving in Lampedusa, the majority originating from Africa, and some from as far away as Asia.
Although migration has become a structural phenomenon in Italy, reception conditions for these people have not markedly improved and the living conditions for undocumented migrants are usually extremely difficult. Even though high numbers of boat arrivals are foreseen, access to care for illegal migrants still remains a mirage in various parts of the country. In June 2007, MSF was compelled to notify the press that it was hindered by Lampedusan authorities in accessing a boat with 43 migrants, at least two of whom were in need of immediate healthcare.
MSF also provides medical care for migrants through clinics in Puglia, Campania, Calabria and Agrigento, where ill health is frequently related to poor working and living conditions. Many people are seen for dermatological, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
In 2006, MSF expanded its presence in Campania, opening new clinics in Caserta province targeting the growing slum areas inhabited mainly by migrants. A specific focus for women migrants employed as commercial sex workers was also added. The component includes outreach activities and medical care with a special focus on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS prevention. MSF also continued to provide medical care in Calabria, where thousands of migrants find employment as seasonal farm workers. As the project had been fully developed, it was handed over to the Ministry of Health (MoH) in March 2007.
In 2006, MSF provided consultations for more than 13,000 migrants in all its clinics located in southern Italy.
MSF has worked in Italy since 1999.