Video of migrants sprayed for scabies stirs outrage in Italy

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 17, 2013 1:25 PM

By Steve Scherer

ROME (Reuters) - A video showing migrants standing naked in the cold while being sprayed for scabies stirred outrage in Italy on Tuesday and underscored what many have criticized as the European Union's failure to tackle its immigration crisis humanely.

State television station RAI2 showed the video, which it said was shot by a migrant with a cell phone, late on Monday. It shows young boys and men being told, with voice and gestures, to strip naked outdoors so they can be sprayed for mites.

RAI 2 interviewed one of the migrants, identified only as Khalid, who said they were lined up and treated "like animals".

Laura Boldrini, the president of Italy's lower house of parliament, issued an angry note saying that "stripping men and women naked outside in the middle of winter" was "unworthy of a civilized country".

The mayor of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini, said the video made the center look like a "concentration camp" and that Italy should be "ashamed" of its treatment of migrants. The Interior Ministry said it was investigating the matter.

The video was shot in the immigration center on the island of Lampedusa, RAI 2 and Khalid said. In October, Lampedusa was the scene of one of the worst disasters in the two-decade long EU immigration crisis when a boat sank near shore, drowning at least 366 people.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was heckled when he visited Lampedusa after the shipwreck, and the EU has come under fire over its handling of the crisis, especially for doing too little for Syrian refugees.

More than 2 million have fled Syria since fighting began there 2 1/2 years ago. Some 127,000 refugees leave Syria every month, the UN refugee agency said on Monday.

Only 10 EU states have agreed to take in a maximum of 12,000 Syrian refugees this year, Amnesty International said on Friday.

There has been a sharp increase in dangerous sea crossings by Syrians to Italy this year, Save the Children said in a report on Tuesday. Syrians made up about a quarter of the 40,244 migrants who reached Italy by boat in the first 11 months, more than any other nationality, the report said.

Syrians, Eritreans and even some of the survivors of the October shipwreck were among those subjected to the humiliating disinfestation, according to the RAI 2 report.

Save the Children condemned the conditions at the center, which now has 391 migrants, including 36 children, living in a structure built for 250, for failing to ensure "basic human rights". Many are sleeping outside in the cold because of the overcrowding, a Save the Children spokeswoman said.

"All European countries must do more to guarantee that migrants - and especially the children - who undertake these dangerous voyages receive the protection and assistance that they need," the report said.

The flow of seaborne migrants continued on Tuesday, with Italy's navy rescuing 110 migrants and recovering one corpse, according to a statement. A navy ship recovered them from a rubber raft south of Lampedusa and is taking them to Porto Empedocle in Sicily.

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)