Italy acts on migrant overcrowding on Lampedusa

By Cristina Cabrejas

Rome, Aug 31 (efe-epa).- Italian authorities on Monday moved to ease overcrowding at migrant centers on Lampedusa and averted a strike on the island over the worsening situation.

Lampedusa mayor Toto Martello announced on Sunday a general strike on the island in protest over how the government’s management of the migration crisis.

The industrial action was suspended after authorities announced on Monday that five boats would be sent to accommodate 1,500 people who have arrived on the island in recent days.

The island’s migration center has a capacity for around 200 but has been overcrowded by more than seven times that number.

Although everyone has their temperature taken and is tested for coronavirus on arrival, there is no way of maintaining social distancing afterward.

Faced with the threat of protests, the government transferred 307 people off the island overnight and approved the urgent dispatch of another three passenger boats to quarantine migrants for 14 days in addition to two others that are used for this purpose.

Martello and President of Sicily Nello Musumeci were also summoned to Rome by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to discuss the crisis in the region.

The mayor said the strike has been postponed while waiting for “answers to come from Rome”.

Musumeci said: “Lampedusa can no longer bear it, Sicily can no longer pay for the indifference of Brussels and the silence of Rome.

“There is a humanitarian and health emergency.”

It came as 353 people who have spent 10 days on the humanitarian ship Sea-Watch 4 continued to wait for a port.

Medical teams have treated many of those on board for dehydration, hypothermia, fuel burns and injuries sustained while trying to make the crossing.

Hannah Wallace Bowman, director of field communications for Doctors Without Borders on board the ship, said: “In our clinic, we have been treating rescue people for wounds, besides the fuel burns and these trauma injuries these wounds that we see are consistent with reports that they give us of the time spent in Libya of torture and abuse.

“Generally the condition on board, the physical condition of the rescue people is stable but that said we have definitely concerns of the psychological wellbeing of all the rescue people on board, the time that they spent in Libya.

“The time of crossing the Mediterranean and now the waiting on board of our ship has its burden and as a doctor, I’m worried for what this can mean psychologically for them.”

She added: “We need a place of safety for these people, we need to provide them with the right medical and psychological care that they have the right to and are in dire need of.

“The rescue is only finished when we reach a port of safety.”

Sea Watch has also accused Malta of helping migrants reach Italy instead of rescuing them and bringing them to Valletta.

The German NGO said a boat with 67 migrants on board was sighted on 29 August off the coast of Malta and arrived unaccompanied on Sunday night at Pachino, in Syracuse.

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