- About Us
- Our Work
- Work With MSF
- Public Events
- Press Room
MSF in Italy, 2009
Field Staff: 33
Reason for Intervention:
All articles on Italy »
Italy has long been a destination or a transit country for migrants and asylum seekers, often escaping conflict or deprivation. The organization Fondazione ISMU estimated the number of undocumented migrants living in Italy to be nearly 422,000. In 2009, the Italian government introduced stricter immigration policies, which have worsened the situation for migrants, increased stigma and hampered their access to healthcare. Last year MSF focused on responding primarily to the medical and humanitarian needs of seasonal migrant workers in southern Italy, and continued to speak out about the difficult living conditions of migrants in order to put pressure on the authorities to improve their situation and increase their access to healthcare.
The Italian government has introduced policies to crack down on unofficial immigration, resulting in an increasingly hostile environment for undocumented migrants. The new law has criminalized unlawful entry into the country and people who are living there without visas. The maximum period in detention centers for undocumented migrants has been extended from two to six months, despite the fact that longer periods of detention are likely to contribute to a further deterioration in detainees’ physical and mental health. MSF assessed 21 detention centers for migrants and reception centers for asylum seekers, and found overcrowding, poor living conditions and a serious lack of healthcare provision.
Border controls have been tightened, resulting in migrants taking longer and more precarious journeys in smaller boats to avoid being detected.
Over the past seven years, MSF has set up 35 clinics providing healthcare and psychological care to undocumented migrants in six Italian regions which are gradually being handed over to local health authorities. The clinics were integrated into the country’s national health services and respected the migrants’ wish to be anonymous.
In Puglia and Calabria in 2009, teams carried out more than 700 consultations and distributed hygiene kits and other essential items to seasonal migrant workers. MSF ran four clinics in the Campania region and assisted more than 1,600 migrants. In April, MSF provided psychological care to victims of the earthquake in the Abruzzo region. Between 2003 and 2009 in Lampedusa, a frequent entry point for migrants and refugees, teams provided migrants with medical assistance. However, last year there was a sharp decrease in the number of migrants due to a new agreement between Italian and Libyan governments to reinforce border patrols. As a consequence, MSF closed the project.
‘I come from Côte d’Ivoire. I have been in Italy for two months. After crossing the Libyan Desert, I was put in prison for six months without any explanation. I lived in a cell measuring five by ten meters with 20 other people. There was no toilet and we could hardly ever go out. Then I travelled to Sicily on a boat. It was a horrible journey: there were more than 15 people, we didn’t have food or water, some were throwing up. Now I have come to Italy to pick tomatoes. They pay us three to four Euros a box. If all goes well I earn €30 a day here, but I don’t work every day. I live in a shack and I sleep on a mattress on the floor. I didn’t think I would have such a bad life in Italy.’
MSF has worked in Italy since 1999.