MSF activities resume in Lampedusa, Italy

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A Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team of two doctors, two nurses and one cultural mediator is back in Lampedusa, providing medical care to undocumented migrants and asylum seekers landing on the Italian island.

The team is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, assisting migrants landing at the harbour and other locations in the island. MSF’s operations in Lampedusa were suspended in October 2008, when the Ministry of Home Affairs refused to renew the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that regulated MSF’s activities on the island.

After months of lobbying authorities, a new MoU was signed last month. MSF will operate in collaboration with INMP, an Italian institute working on the health of migrant populations. The activities are carried out independently from the Italian Government and MSF receives no institutional funds to perform its work in Lampedusa.

MSF started providing emergency medical care to undocumented migrants and asylum seekers landing in Lampedusa in 2002. Since 2005, MSF has treated 4,450 people, including 1,420 treated between January and October 2008. Each year, thousands of migrants arrive in Lampedusa after harsh boat journeys across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

In 2008 alone, almost 30,000 people are estimated to have landed on the island. Those who survive the journey arrive exhausted and dehydrated, suffering from respiratory infections and skin complaints caused by overexposure to salt and water as well as burns from fuel accidents. They need medical care which is provided by a specialised team able to assess their medical needs, stabilise the patients upon landing as needed and accompany the most serious cases to the reception centres or the health centre.