(c) Sinawi Medine



migrants arrived in Italy by sea in 2019


were unaccompanied minors and 9% were women


people died crossing the Mediterranean in 2019

Humanitarian situation in Italy

The number of refugees and migrants in Italy reached a peak in 2016, with 181,436 people arriving by sea according to UNHCR. In 2019 the country only registered 11,471 arrivals. The majority of these were men (77%), but there were also significant numbers of unaccompanied minors (14%).

The signing of an agreement between Libya and the Italian government in 2017, followed by the decrees passed in September 2018 by Matteo Salvini, former Deputy Prime Minister, led to a substantial reduction in migrants arriving in Italy – the number fell by 49.84% between 2018 and 2019. This was because the decrees sought to reduce the number of asylum seekers, restrict access to international protection and reorganise the reception centres so that they now only take unaccompanied minors and migrants whose asylum claims have been accepted.

91,424 asylum seekers and refugees were accommodated at reception centres in Italy at the end of 2019, while 34,000 were excluded from the reception system and left to fend for themselves

Despite the political changes in Italy and Matteo Salvini’s departure from government in September 2019, many migrant reception centres have suffered cuts to their funding, with a corresponding decline in the services they can offer. Several organisations have found they are no longer in a position to provide services of an acceptable standard and have had to stop receiving migrants. While 91,424 migrants were accommodated by reception centres in 2019, around 34,000 people were excluded from the reception system and left to fend for themselves.

In 2016, over 180,000 people arrived by boat ©Olivier Papegnies
In 2016, over 180,000 people arrived by boat ©Olivier Papegnies

Our activities in Italy


caring for migrants


In this changing context, Médecins du Monde has adapted its operational strategy in Italy, maintaining activities in Calabria, Sicily and Rome. Southern Italy, one of the country’s poorest regions with a very fragile healthcare system, still sees the arrival of the largest numbers of new migrants. It is also the region with the most foreign minors who are isolated and excluded from the reception system.

Rome also attracts large numbers of migrants and the majority face considerable difficulties in accessing basic services, such as housing and healthcare. They find themselves marginalised and excluded from the system. They are deprived of guidance, access and care and treatment. There is little provision of cultural and linguistic support and many needs remain unmet, especially in terms of women’s healthcare, care and treatment following gender-based violence and mental healthcare and psychosocial support.


In 2019


  • trained 543 healthcare workers, social workers cultural mediators and interpreters to facilitate better care and treatment for female migrants and refugees
  • provided psychosocial activities for 350 minors and young adults
  • supported the mobile medical unit in Rome with cultural mediation and psychosocial support for 133 migrants living in squats
  • reached over 21,000 people through advocacy campaigns around the issue of violence against migrants


In order to help migrants and refugees gain greater autonomy and to facilitate their access to care and rights, Médecins du Monde organises awareness-raising and prevention sessions. We provide support and capacity-building for local actors (healthcare professionals, those running the reception system, healthcare institutions and civil society organisations) with the aim of improving medical and psychosocial care and treatment for migrants. Médecins du Monde also helps to improve cooperation between the different actors and to encourage sharing of good practice, as well as taking part in advocacy campaigns at local and national level to promote migrants’ rights.


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