Italy: Asylum seekers' voyages of hell
Up to 1,000 exhausted, hungry, illegal immigrants arrive on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa each day
The smell is awful. Sour and overpowering, it rises from two wooden boats and two rubber dinghies tied up in a far corner of the picturesque harbour on the Italian island of Lampedusa. In these small craft some 300 people arriving from North Africa in search of new lives in Europe have endured dangerous journeys at sea, crammed together for hours without adequate water, food, shelter or toilets.
Still scattered on the decks is what was left behind by those who made it ashore: odd shoes, discarded clothes and empty water bottles sloshing about in dirty, oily water. According to local fishermen, the migrants in these boats were brought in by the coastguards 10 days previously.
The terrible stench gives some idea of the ordeal they must have endured. 'When they arrive they are suffering from nausea, vomiting, sunburn, dehydration, hypoglycaemia, diarrhoea,' says Dr Claudia Codesani from the charity Médecins Sans Frontières.
'They have been at sea for 17 hours or for as long as five or six days and they are desperate to eat and drink. Everyone is shocked and frightened. Many of them say to me: "Where is the train station for Milan"?'
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