Migrant Route Augusta Italy 2014

MSF assists migrants and asylum seekers rescued off Sicily

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An MSF team in Pozzallo, Sicily today is assisting 183 migrants and asylum seekers who were rescued by an oil tanker in the Strait of Sicily. They were among the almost 1,000 people rescued by seven sea rescue operations in less than 24 hours.

At least ten people were reportedly found dead.

Among the rescued migrants and asylum seekers, 183 of them were bought to the first reception center in Pozzallo where an MSF team provides screening services and medical consultations for migrants and asylum seekers upon their arrival.

"About 180 people arrived at Pozzallo centre today, all men, from Sub Saharan Africa. Their health conditions are good, apart from minor injuries and trauma related to the long journey and violence imposed by the traffickers," said Chiara Montaldo, coordinator of MSF in Sicily. "Nothing new, it is the usual, dramatic routine landings, we have seen repeatedly for months now, and that will not improve until these people, who cross the sea in search of safety, can legally travel to Europe without risking their lives."

In a recent interview, the director of Frontex, the border management agency, has reiterated that the operation of the European Union has no legal competence to do search and rescue at sea, leaving this responsibility to individual national governments.

"It is unacceptable that the lives of hundreds of people depend on commercial, private boats, oil tankers passing by almost by accident," said Montaldo. "The chronic conflicts and violence in the countries of origin will not stop now and thousands of people continue to flee in search of protection. Long-term measures to ensure a legal and safe way to Europe are needed. Until then, the search and rescue at sea is absolutely required."

MSF calls on the EU to review its policies on migration and border control, and calls on Italy, as well as member states, to assume their responsibility to address the situation and prevent unnecessary deaths.