By Italian Red Cross

Almost 85,000 people escaping violence, persecution and poverty have arrived on the Italian shores in 2017. Each one is greeted and assisted by Italian Red Cross volunteers and staff who are present at ports across the country.

In June 2017 alone, more than 770 people arrived every day in Italy, having undergone a harrowing journey to reach safety. Fifteen per cent were children, almost all of them travelling alone. For years, the Italian Red Cross has been present whenever migrants arrive to provide services including health care, psychological support, clothing, food and water.

The Red Cross’s presence at ports has a value beyond emergency care. It provides comfort and reassurance for people who have already suffered significant trauma. Staff and volunteers meet people who are missing loved ones or who have experienced some form of violence, exploitation or sexual abuse often long before they step foot inside an unseaworthy and overcrowded boat on the North African Coast.

At the port in Augusta, Leona from Sierra Leone shared her experience. Her husband had been killed in front of her in Libya and she had been subjected to repeated violence daily for several years, to the point of losing her baby.

At first she had difficulties finding the words, but then she shared her story.

Helping families find lost loved ones

Another vital type of assistance the Italian Red Cross provides is to help separated family members to reconnect with their loved ones and help authorities identify those who have lost their lives.

Chalondra arrived in Trapani on the island of Sicily alone and pregnant. Her hope was to reunite with her husband and two-year-old child who had managed to make it to Italy a few months before.

Stepping of the rescue ship in her bare feet, an Italian Red Cross volunteer handed her a pair of sandals as she was taken to the health care post. Despite her smile, she was deeply concerned. “While we were on the boat, somebody got on top of my belly and I haven’t felt my baby move since then,” Chalondra said.

An ambulance was immediately called to take Chalondra and a Red Cross volunteer as support to the hospital. Soon, the volunteer calls back with  good news: Chalondra’s baby, a girl, is doing well.  Shortly afterwards, Red Cross staff responsible for tracing lost family members meet up with Chalondra to get the information needed to find her family. It wasn’t long until, with the help of the Red Cross network and authorities, they were contacted in Verona.

Some names have been changed to protect identities.

See more about migration and the IFRC.