Italy is facing an immigration crisis as a record
number of people flee conflict and economic hardship in Africa, and the Italian
branch of ADRA is looking to help.
Italian workers with ADRA, the relief agency of the
Seventh-day Adventist Church, distributed several hundred personal hygiene kits
and staged a gospel music concert for the latest group of immigrants fished out
of the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian navy.
The Italian naval ship Etna docked in the Sicilian port of
Palermo on June 15 after picking up 767 immigrants in various operations across
the Mediterranean, including a group from a shipwreck off the coast of Libya
that killed 10 and left 15 others seriously burned.
“These people disembarked with disease, malnutrition,
exhaustion, and lack of dignity for having been forced to flee from their homeland
at the risk of life itself,” said Luca Alfano, project leader of ADRA in Italy.
Italy deployed its navy to rescue immigrants in an attempt
to prevent deaths after an immigrant boat sank off the Italian island of
Lampedusa last October, killing 366. Thousands of illegal immigrants have
arrived in Italy this year, filling up camps to overflowing and leaving the
authorities scrambling to find ways to cope.
The 767 immigrants who arrived June 15 were placed in
community centers around Palermo, the capital of Sicily with a population of
650,000 and a destination popular with tourists awestruck with its
On Sabbath, June 21, ADRA workers visited one of the main
centers, located at the church of St. John Mary Vianney, which was sheltering
about 280 immigrants, mostly from Ghana, Gambia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Mali and
“This allowed us to see first-hand what the real and
immediate needs are and what we can do to help make them feel welcomed and
loved,” Alfano said in a statement on the website of the church’s Inter-European Division, which includes Italy and spans 20 countries from the
Czech Republic in the east to Portugal in the west.
The following Monday, June 23, ADRA volunteers handed out
about 300 personal hygiene kits containing essential items such as soap,
toothbrushes, toothpaste, and towels to the immigrants.
That evening, the Palermo Ghanaian Adventist gospel choir
performed a musical program at the center. “We tried to convey warmth and
solidarity with these people — visibly lost, disoriented and insecure,” Alfano said.
ADRA is working with the leadership of the community center
to provide other assistance, including lessons in the Italian language, workshops,
and various recreational and cultural activities.