The psychologists aboard Sicily's refugee ships

Red Cross staff and volunteers spend three weeks at a time on the quarantine ships. Photo by: Emiliano Albensi / Italian Red Cross

BARCELONA — Since April, thousands of people on the move have passed through the commercial ships docked at Palermo on the Italian island of Sicily. The national authorities have repurposed these four ships — each one able to hold up to 700 people at a time — as quarantine centers for those who have newly arrived. Some have spent years making the arduous journey from sub-Saharan Africa to reach the Italian coast; others have come from Iraq, Iran, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

Upon arrival in Italy, the migrants and refugees are taken straight to the ships, where they may spend three weeks or more and must provide two negative COVID-19 tests before being allowed to disembark. Italian Red Cross volunteers and staff members also live and sleep on the ships for three weeks at a time while providing health screenings, cultural mediations, and food distributions.

Among them is a small team of psychologists, who are there to support the mental health needs of the people on board.

Continue reading and access this visual story: Meet the small team of psychologists in Sicily working to support migrants stuck in limbo.

About the author

  • Emma Smith

    For four years, Emma Smith covered careers and recruitment, among other topics, for Devex. She now freelances for Devex and has a special interest in mental health, immigration, and sexual and reproductive health. She holds a degree in journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University and a master’s in media and international conflict.