1. Home
  2. News & stories
  3. “Piecing lives together: Angela”

“Piecing lives together: Angela”

26 Jun 24

“Piecing lives together: Angela”

26 June 2024

Since 2021, MSF runs a project in Palermo, Italy, to assist with personalized rehab programs for torture survivors with migratory background. Angela (fictitious name to protect her identity) is among the more than 200 patients the MSF team has assisted in Palermo. She has completed her psychological treatment path; she is living in Italy and has started a new life. This is her story:


Over the last decade, Italy has become one of the main entry points to Europe for undocumented migrants and asylum seekers arriving by sea. In 2023, the country experienced a significant surge in arrivals, with over 157,000 migrants disembarking in Italy, almost matching the high arrival rates seen from 2014 to 2017 when an average of 155,000 migrants landed each year. Most people crossing the Central Mediterranean to reach Italy depart from Libya, although departures from Tunisia have been steadily increasing since 2021.


Regardless of their point of departure, most people crossing the Central Mediterranean report experiencing extreme violence, abuse, and ill-treatment along their migration route, whether in Libya, Tunisia, or transit countries. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has estimated that among the refugee population in the world, the percentage of those who have experienced torture ranges from 5% to 35%. Although it's difficult to estimate the exact number of migrants who experience torture and intentional violence in the attempt to reach Europe, official reports, investigations, and thousands of testimonies reveal that violent practices against migrants are widespread in many transit countries along the Mediterranean route. Torture, in various forms, is a common element of the migration experience for thousands of people who eventually reach Europe after enduring excruciating ordeals.


In Libya, in particular, the cycle of violence and abuse against migrants is part of a deliberate system to extort payments for release. This has been widely documented by UN agencies and international organizations and denounced by hundreds of survivors. The risk of arrest and detention remains ever-present, as does systemic abuse, violence, and extortion, both outside and inside detention centres. Libya's system of arbitrary detention, tolerance of trafficking, and ongoing instability make it nearly impossible to provide meaningful protection and durable treatment for thousands of migrants continuously exposed to the cycle of arrests, abuse, trafficking, and torture.


In addition to providing assistance and psychological support to migrants and asylum seekers after they disembark in Italy, MSF is running a project in Palermo, Sicily, to offer specialized care to survivors of torture with migratory background. Since 2021, MSF has operated an interdisciplinary outpatient clinic for migrant and refugee survivors of torture, offering medical, psychological, social, and legal assistance and personalized therapeutic pathways based on patients' needs to more than 200 patients, in collaboration with the University Teaching Hospital in Palermo and other local organizations.