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MSF Assists Immigrants Arriving at Fuerteventura Island

Field Hospital, Mobile Team will Offer Aid to Africans Arriving by Boat

Fuerteventura/New York, March 1, 2004 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began an emergency intervention today seeking to provide humanitarian assistance to African immigrants arriving by boat on the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.

Over the weekend, 62 new immigrants arrived in this manner and received impromptu medical assistance from MSF, prompting MSF's decision to carry out an intervention with the aim of providing aid to immigrants arriving on the coast as well as to those intercepted in high seas and later taken ashore.

After a long and arduous journey at sea, most of the immigrants arrive presenting symptoms of hypothermia, hypoglycaemia, exhaustion, dehydration, hunger, and thirst. Depending on the circumstances surrounding their landing, they may also have sprains, bruises, and lacerations. In 2003, nearly 8,000 people washed up on Fuerteventura's shores or were intercepted at sea, but no governmental assistance whatsoever has been organized thus far.

MSF has set up a field hospital and organized a mobile team consisting of a doctor, a nurse, a logistician, and a field coordinator. The field hospital is located on the Gran Tarajal harbour, near the site where most immigrants are brought by civil guards after being intercepted at sea. The MSF team will provide basic medical care and first aid, restoring immigrants' vital signs to normal and identifying more severe pathologies to be referred to the health centers on the island. The team will also distribute blankets and food.

Fuerteventura has become one of the primary destinations for African immigrants, especially coming from Sub-Saharan Africa.