Italy: Assistance to migrants goes beyond ports of arrival

Published: 16 June 2015 15:39 CET

By Stephen Ryan (@stiofanoriain), IFRC Europe

Each day, hundreds of people continue to risk their lives in the perilous crossing from North Africa to Italy. Many are fleeing conflict and insecurity; they arrive from Eritrea, Somalia, Syria and elsewhere. They seek safety and protection for themselves and their families, which European countries are duty-bound to provide under the Geneva Conventions and its Protocols. Even when the dangerous crossing is complete, the challenges continue for these families and individuals; as such, the Red Cross emergency response has also had to expand beyond the ports of arrival.

Recognizing the evolving needs of such large population movement, Italian Red Cross has begun providing services at the central train stations of Milan, Rome and Ventimiglia where hundreds of migrants have been congregating each day. The Red Cross is providing emergency health services in each station, as well as assisting through interpreters.

In the past days, the Red Cross has established a ‘tent city’ in Rome to provide shelter for the hundreds in need, as a nearby centre for migrants is full to capacity. The temporary camp can accommodate 150-200 people at present, but may need to grow further as the numbers continue to climb.

Many migrants have had no choice but to come to this tent accommodation, as the centre for migrants is overcrowded. This has left some extra space in the centre for women and children. Volunteers and staff at the tent camp provide meals in the morning and evening, and medical checks to those in need.

In Milan, volunteers with Italian Red Cross provide meals and other assistance around the clock; from 8 am to 8 pm they providing medical assistance, and in the night hours, non-health related services. The Red Cross is also assisting the authorities with temporary accommodation for migrants.

At Ventimiglia, many migrants who have tried to cross into France and have been turned back by French authorities are receiving assistance from the Red Cross; beds, blankets shelter, and hundreds of hot meals every day. Here too, there are medical needs. The local branch works in close collaboration with their counterparts in the Menton branch of French Red Cross.

As the number of people migrating to Europe via Italy continues to grow, so too do the needs. Much of the aid provided is thanks to the assistance of local people, supporting the work of Italian Red Cross. Volunteers work to ensure that those using services are treated with dignity and respect, and that basic needs are at least met. More needs to be done however, and for this Italian Red Cross needs support.

In May of this year, the IFRC launched an emergency appeal for 2.7 million Swiss francs to support the Italian Red Cross operation to assist migrants arriving in Europe.