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Italy: Condoms for migrants urged on southern Lampedusa island

last update: March 30, 12:50

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Roma, 30 March - (AKI) - Condoms should be distributed to thousands of migrants crowded on southern Lampedusa island to prevent unwanted pregnancies and halt the spread of sexually transmitted disease, a prominent Italian medic said Wednesday.

"Just as cigarettes can be distributed, we can hand out condoms and other forms of contraception, the head of Italy's association of gynaecologists and obstetricians, Nicola Surico, told Adnkronos.

"The contraceptives can be distributed to men and women, to cut the risk of STDs such as syphillis and the (cancer causing) papillomavirus, as well as unwanted pregnancies," Surico added.

The risk of STDs spreading among more than 6,000 mostly Tunisian illegal immigrants on Lampedusa as of early Wednesday, was high, according to Surico, as such infectious diseases are widespread.

The influx of migrants has caused severe overcrowding and has angered residents on the tiny fishing island whose population is around 5,300.

Six navy and passenger ships were expected to transfer many of the migrants to other centres elsewhere in Italy as food is running out and sanitary conditions are described by officials as "desperate."

There could could be dozens of unwanted pregnancies among female migrants, he warned. "Unfortunately, in many cases, these women are likely to seek abortions," he said.

About 20,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Lampedusa since the unrest in in North Africa and elsewhere in the Arab region began in January, loosening frontier checks that blocked the way into Europe.

Lampedusa lies around 113 kilometres from Tunisia and 205 kilometres south of Sicily.

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