Health crisis

More than 20,000 migrants a year land on the shores of Lampedusa but regional health authorities do not extend any medical care to them.

Since 2002, MSF has provided free emergency medical screenings for migrants who arrive by boat on the island, which lies south of Sicily.

About 4,550 migrants have been treated by MSF since 2005, with 1,420 attended to between January and October 2008.

MSF medical staff say they have seen an increase over the years in medical conditions linked to the migrants' difficult travelling conditions, such as shock, hypothermia and burns.

The proportion of women and children among the migrants is rising and more pregnant women are travelling in dangerous conditions to Lampedusa than ever before, MSF staff say.

"We are now quite concerned at the fact that there is no health treatment at the dock. We have asked the Italian authorities to guarantee medical services," Virgilio said.
 
"This year we have seen that lots of people coming to Lampedusa have travelled in really harsh conditions."

About 30 per cent of the migrants arriving on Lampedusa arrive from war zones or countries affected by droughts, such as Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia.