Italian Red Cross volunteers provide support for increasing numbers of migrants fleeing violence

Published: 16 February 2015 14:58 CET

In recent days volunteers from the Italian Red Cross have been on alert to provide humanitarian assistance to a growing number of migrants who have landed in the Sicilian towns of Pozzallo, Augusta, Porto Empedocle as well as on the island of Lampedusa.

Tents, ambulances and buses as well as 80 well-equipped volunteers– part of the recently-established Italian Red Cross branch in Lampedusa – were ready to receive the 289 migrants who landed on 15 February in the port of Pozzallo. The Red Cross volunteers assisted another 280 migrants who arrived the previous day in the town.

The numbers of people arriving to Italy on boats continue to increase. Recent reports from the Italian Red Cross indicate that the Italian Coast Guard rescued 2164 migrants in one day alone over this past weekend.

The President of the Red Cross Sicily Branch Rosario Valastro has alerted all provincial committees in the region to monitor the situation as more boats were spotted south of Lampedusa.

Comfort to shipwreck survivors

These recent landings follow last week's tragic incident when – according to media reports – at least 300 people died in the Mediterranean Sea after four rubber dinghies coming from Libya capsized off the Lampedusa coast.

Currently 90 survivors of Monday’s shipwreck are being hosted in a reception centre on Lampedusa, after being rescued and transported to the island by the Coast Guard. Red Cross volunteers distributed essential relief items to rescued people on arrival, and logistical support to local authorities involved in the search and rescue operations.

Francesco Rocca, President of Italian Red Cross and Vice President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), reiterated his concerns over the increasing number of deaths of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and called for humanitarian assistance and access to services to vulnerable migrants irrespective of their legal status.

“How many more casualties must we count before Europe will face this tragedy?” he said. “I feel shame and sorrow for this loss of life, a tragedy that could have been avoided and that weighs on the minds of all. In the face of this tragedy once again we return to speak out the urgent need to define an admission plan at European level.”

Rocca said people who run away from war and hunger are entitled to a safe harbour and the humanitarian protection of the international community.

European National Societies, with the IFRC, called ongovernments to ensure that people fleeing Syria and Libya are provided with safe and effective legal avenues to the EU territory.(

Last year alone, over 3,224 died at sea in an attempt to reach Europe, and in January, there were 3,538 people landing in Italy compared to the 2,171 registered in January, 2014.

Last week, the Italian Red Cross awarded the people of Lampedusa its Gold Medal of Merit in honour of their generosity, humanity and respect for those fleeing violence and despair across the Mediterranean Sea.