Sicily Canal as the Gateway to Europe: First Medical Aid to Refugees in the Mediterranean  

Project location: Italy, Sicily
Project start date: September 2013 - Project end date: July 2014
Project number: 2013-065
Beneficiary: Fondazione Corpo Italiano di Soccorso dell’Ordine di Malta - CISOM



The project primarily consisted in supporting the emergency situation of the immigration ensuring the availability of medical personnel of CISOM on board of boats of the "Guardia Costiera" used in rescue operations during migratory events. CISOM performed this service on board the SAR (Search&Rescue) vessels according to specific memoranda of understanding signed with the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration (Ministry of the Interior) and with the Civil Protection Department (Presidency of the Council of Ministers).

CISOM medical staff supported the rescue operations in the Strait of Sicily, in Siracusa, giving medical support to more than 13.000 immigrants. CISOM's medical staff on board took part in the SAR operations consisting of sighting the boat assisted, approach, transfer of the migrants to SAR vessel, first medical assistance, landing at the dock and handover to the local health facilities. CISOM assessed the time of rescue at sea as well as the general health conditions of migrants and make a first "triage", assessing and prioritizing their health conditions and, if necessary, providing a first aid medication. In case of particular emergencies, the medical staff on board established a phone contact with the closest health facilities as to agree on specific modes of action, including possible urgent transfers.

The medical staff treated cases of hypothermia, dehydration, hypoglycemic crises, petrol burns and contusions, and also helped children and pregnant women. The medical doctor was available on a base of a time-schedule definite in coordination with the CISOM groups of East and West Sicily and the operational headquarter in Rome.

CISOM's staff based in Rome was responsible both for the project implementation, monitoring, activities coordination, financial reporting and for the selection of the teams. The activities consisted in the coordinate the operations on sea with the Guardia Costiera during the project implementation. Meetings were also organized with the local, regional and national institutions in order to manage the different situation faced during the flow of immigrants to the Strait of Sicily. Every month, CISOM sent one medical doctor to support the emergency situation for four months in the Strait of Sicily. All the medical staff sent in the Strait of Sicily was available 24 hours a day for the Seacrh and Rescue Operations. An average amount of volonteers also assisted the operations at the peak of immigrations in Augusta, Pozzallo e Porto Empedocle. The team assisted at more than 22 migratory events on vessels assisting the Guardia Costiera and make a fist evaluation of the physical conditions to 13.000 immigrants at the time of rescue at sea and make a first sanitarian triage at least at 1.500 of them.

Besides the medical and paramedical experts, CISOM has a networking of volonteers coming from Sicily and the other Italian regions to help the emergency operations and support the migrants arriving to the island. An average amount of volunteers assisted the operations at the peak of immigrations and help the institutions to face the emergency situations. During the project implementation, CISOM staff has had also constant relations with the media and made awareness about of the critical situation of the migratory events and for the visibility of the project and implemented CISOM website with the operations of Mare Nostrum.

The results obtained during the project implementations were:

- An average of one meeting per week organized with Guardia Costiera and Marina Militare to coordinate the sea operations

- Coordination the flow of immigrants with the local, regional and national institutions managing the different situation faced during the flow of immigrants

- CISOM website implemented by a communication expert with Mare Nostrum operations in order to give visibility to the project' operations

- One medical doctor sent every month for four months to support the emergency situation of immigrants' flows

- An average amount of volunteers assisted the operations at the peak of immigrations

- 13.073 migrants assisted and had a first evaluation on physical conditions during the project's implementation

- 1.585 had a fist sanitarian triage

- Medicines and medication addressed to 743 immigrants

- 12 migrants transported to the hospital for assistance

- 70 pregnant women and 500 younger people assisted and needed a sanitarian inervention

Fondazione Corpo Italiano di Soccorso dell’Ordine di Malta - CISOM
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