MSF assists refugees and asylum seekers in Italy

  • International staff: 1
  • National staff: 4

    In October 1999, MSF opened an office in Brindisi, Italy, to monitor the condition of the many refugees fleeing across the Adriatic to that part of Italy as a result of the Kosovo war or other unrest in the Balkans.

    During summer 2000, MSF was able to visit a number of refugee camps in the Puglia, Calabria and Trieste regions. These visits were the groundwork for a possible future program for improving the protection status of asylum seekers in Italy (and in Europe in general), and increasing access to health care for this vulnerable population.

    In Rome, beginning in January 2000, MSF has helped several hundred people coming from South America, the Balkans, Eastern Europe and North Africa get access to health care. Under Italian law, all those residing in the country, legally or illegally, are entitled to health care, but many illegal immigrants are afraid to seek help. MSF helps some of them register with the health services through a system guaranteeing their anonymity.

    A program aimed at a large Roma (Gypsy) community living in camps outside of Rome - where flimsy housing and the lack of water, electricity, latrines and health care put the population at risk for disease - was turned over to the public health authorities in December 1999, after over three years of MSF intervention. MSF provided medical care, water and sanitation support, and social and legal assistance to about 1,500 people.