Migration: Unacceptable conditions for migrants and asylum seekers in Pozzallo reception center, Italy

MSF denounces the conditions within the Pozzallo reception centre in Italy and calls on Italian authorities for a more structured response

In a report presented on the 17 November to the Italian Parliamentary Commission, “Migrants Reception”, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) criticised the conditions of the First Aid and Reception Centre in Pozzallo, in Sicily, and asked the Italian authorities to develop a concrete strategy for the reception of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.  MSF called to ensure  adequate conditions and services, and to provide better information on asylum procedures for the thousands of people crossing the sea after traumatic experiences in their home countries and in their journey.

"A centre that has sanitation facilities that are often out of order, that does not offer an appropriate place to give treatments against scabies and where there is no guarantee of privacy, does not provide decent reception conditions," says Claudia Lodesani, MSF doctor and coordinator in Italy. "Today more than ever before, we need a reception system that takes into consideration the needs of those who have suffered traumatic experiences. From the first moment they arrive in Italy, the services on offer should provide greater protection, such as quick access to medical care, suitable areas for women and children, and adequate legal advice. It is crucial that the most vulnerable people, such as the victims of violence, be identified as soon as possible."

Since February 2015, MSF has been providing medical care in the Pozzallo centre and, if required, psychological support to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees on their arrival and during their stay in the centre. In the course of their work, MSF teams have often had to face an insufficient and inadequate response from the authorities in charge.

MSF’s report presented today documents and highlights conditions related to services offered and the protection of the most vulnerable people, which do not meet minimum standards. The report describes an inadequate and often overcrowded structure,  in a state of progressive deterioration and requiring maintenance work that, despite many recommendations, has still not started.,. The centre, which has a maximum capacity of 220 people, often has to contend with a much higher number of arrivals, resulting in inadequate separation between men and women and no suitable protection for vulnerable people. People staying in the centre often report that they do not have any access to legal information. Moreover, they can’t leave the centre or call their families because they do not have access to telephones or phonecards. 

Based on the findings of this report, MSF is asking the Italian authorities to abandon an emergency approach and to develop a more structured response to guarantee adequate reception conditions and services. “The right of people to health and psychological care has to be considered a priority and must be protected and guaranteed”, says Stefano Di Carlo, MSF Head of Mission in Italy. “People hosted in the first reception system have to be treated humanely and with dignity. In particular, those who want to ask for asylum must be enabled to do so through procedures to identify their vulnerability", continues Stefano Di Carlo. MSF will continue to ask for adequate reception conditions and services in the centre, in order to contribute to their improvement and to define a model that puts more emphasis on the needs of the most vulnerable people.

Since January 2015, around 12,480 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers have arrived by sea in the port of Pozzallo. The MSF team in Sicily – composed of doctors, nurses, psychologists and cultural mediators – has supported the provincial health authorities in providing medical assistance during the landings and at the First Aid and Reception Centre. More than 2,640 people have been seen by medical teams working in the first reception building. MSF has also distributed hygiene and essential needs kits.

In addition, in the reception centre in Ragusa province, MSF is providing psychological support and assistance to victims of traumatic events. Thanks to a new team offering emergency psychological first aid, and a team of cultural mediators and psychologists, MSF is able to work in several Italian ports within 72 hours of a need being reported.