Saturday 22 October 2016

Doctor tells of migrants' 'hell'

Published 10/07/2015 | 02:30

Project coordinator of MSF (Medici Senza Frontiere) in Sicily, Dr Chiara Montaldo, with the boats left at the port of Pozzallo
Project coordinator of MSF (Medici Senza Frontiere) in Sicily, Dr Chiara Montaldo, with the boats left at the port of Pozzallo

Migrants crossing the Mediterranean are arriving in Europe with bullet wounds and other signs of violence according to a doctor working on the coalface of the crisis.

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Dr Chiara Montaldo of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Doctors Without Borders, has told the Irish Independent that much of the injuries are inflicted in Libya and it’s getting “worse and worse”.

Her remarks come ahead of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome today.

The chaos in Libya and the migrant crisis are on the agenda.

Mr Kenny last night praised the contribution of the Irish flagship the LE Eithne which has rescued almost 3,400 people.

He also conceded that the asylum process  in Ireland is “not up to scratch”.

Dr Montaldo is MSF’s coordinator on Sicily where the LE Eithne has brought hundreds of rescued migrants.

While none of those delivered by the Irish ship had suffered gun shots, she said it’s becoming all too frequent.

“This has happened many times – one even died recently.

“Unfortunately it is quite common to find people who have been shot . “Several times we have received people who have been shot just before getting on the boat.”

She said that migrants have described conditions in Libyan detention centres as “hell”.

“They say that they have to work in the day time and then the night time they are often tortured or beaten.”

Her team also deal with cases of migrants who have suffered sexual violence.

“We had a minor who tried to take his own life who had probably been a victim of a rape in Libya.”

Some pregnant women that land in ports like Pozzallo and Catania have also been the victims of sexual violence.

“Many of them they ask for example for abortions because their pregnancy is a consequence of rape,” Dr Montaldo said.

She said many of the migrants are traumatised by their experiences and are suffering from psychological illnesses.

MSF also have boats patrolling the Mediterranean.

The docks of Pozzallo, one of its main reception areas, is littered with migrant craft recovered by Italian authoriites and put out of use.

Meanwhile Mr Kenny has said that the government has yet to consider how many of the migrants will be resettled here.

Earlier this week Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald sad that Ireland may be asked to take as many as 600 and that there would be a decision on the matter later this month.

The migrants are to be accommodated in controversial direct provision centres though Ms Fitzgerald said they are already near capacity.

Asked how Ireland would accommodate such numbers under the current circumstances Mr Kenny said:

“Ireland will consider taking a number but government haven’t actually reflected on that yet.

“The Minister has received the McMahon report .(which recommends improvements at the centres)

“I think what’s very necessary here is to consider that in a realistic way but it’s also important to have a method of processing in a much more effective and opportune way – applications to come before the authorities.

Asked if he had ever visited a direct provision centre he said: “I haven’t, no.

“But I’ve met with quite a number of people who’ve come to me from Direct Provision centres.

“When I get an opportunity I’ll be happy to go and visit one of them.

“Obviously we’ve got to change the system from what it is, Mr Kenny said.

Irish Independent

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