Interview with Stefano Di Carlo, MSF Italy Head of Mission

In response to the continuous humanitarian and medical needs of the migrants, asylum seekers and refugees crossing Mediterranean Sea and arriving Italy, an MSF team has started since February, for the first time, to work inside the CPSA (first reception centre) in Pozzallo, Sicily. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, MSF provides medical care to the migrants upon their landing.

Stefano Di Carlo, MSF Italy Head of Mission, explains the project's goals.

What is the work of MSF inside the centre?

MSF has been working at the landing port Pozzallo to conduct health screening and triage for the migrants, asylum seekers and refugees upon their arrival since the beginning of 2014. From February, we have started to work inside the first reception centre (CPSA) in collaboration with Ministry of Health to provide medical services for the migrants, asylum seekers and refugees from the time they arrived and during their stay in the centre. The doctors and nurses in our team work alongside with the staff from the Ministry of Health.

What are the medical needs?

Last year, we saw a lot of people arriving with pathologies related to the long travels or poor living conditions, such as skin infections, small wounds, general weakness or burns due to the contact with gasoline.  They were able to receive treatment by the sea rescue operation earlier and in general arrived in a good state of health.  After the closure of Mare Nostrum at the end of last year, we don’t know now what this year would look like. We are worried about what the situation would be and we are concerned that we would see more migrants arriving at landing port in serious health condition due to the roughness of the travel.

MSF is also providing psychological care to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in the province of Ragusa. The need for mental health support on their arrival is vital because many of them have lived traumatic experience in their home countries or during the journey like shipwrecks.

What has MSF seen so far?

We have just started to work inside the first reception centre. There were just a few landings in past weeks. But from the tragedies happened this week off the Mediterranean Sea , we can see there is still a concrete problem. The restrictive migrant and border control policies of EU, people are left with the only option to reach Europe by crossing the sea. That’s why these accidents happen. We know sea rescue operations are not the solution of the problem, but until the refugees have no other choices to reach Europe safely, it’s absolutely required.

In the months to come after winter, we expect to see an increase in the number of departures. Italy and the European Union must address to this situation that puts human lives at great cost.
MSF has been working in Italy with refugees and migrants since 2002, particularly on the island of Lampedusa from 2002 to 2013. Today MSF supports the Italian health authorities by providing medical care to refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Pozzallo and the province of Ragusa in Sicily.