This blog entry is based on a series of articles started by Caritas Europa about the Caritas response to the recent events in Northern Africa. In this series, Caritas Italy and reporter Emilio Fabio Tosello regularly share their reports from different places where Caritas is acting to help those affected.

Caritas is present on the Italian island of Lampedusa were most of the people leaving Tunisia are arriving. In a few days the situation in Lampedusa has gone from bad to worse.

The number of migrants on the island has reached over 20,000, largely outnumbering the 5,000 inhabitants of the island. So far, around 2,000 migrants have been transferred to a camp on the mainland in Italy.

The situation is dire with serious consequences for the migrants’ health and hygiene. Thousands of people camp outside at night and only get rationed food and water.

Oliviero Forti, Director of Migration at Caritas Italy, last week gave the following account from Lampedusa where he is coordinating relief operations for arriving migrants:

“In Lampedusa, migrants sleep during the day so as not to suffer from cold during the night. Apart from the few available places in the ‘Identification and Expulsion Centre’, there are no other places where they can take refuge. Tunisians have built a tent city on the island.

“Last Sunday, a truck provided by Caritas arrived loaded with clothes which have been handed out only in part because of security difficulties: giving a bottle of water to one person, means not giving it to the others.

“Now it is necessary to understand how to continue with the distributions. Caritas immediately opened an office with a coordinator who monitors the situation on the island, keeps in contact with security forces and decides on actions, as we did with the truck loaded with clothes.

“Then there is the Caritas “Casa della fraternità” that shelters 60 minors. We have also sent a regional delegate to Manduria in Apulia where some of the migrants have been transferred.”