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Lampedusa nurse says ‘welcome everyone’ – as residents complain they have to wait for care

His sweat-stained scrubs caught our eyes as he made his way along the crowded dock on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Hundreds of migrants had formed a long queue and he offered support and medical care to those in need.

His name is Franco Galletto, a 65-year-old registered nurse, who moved purposely – if frenetically – between a dozen or so patients on the pier.

The new arrivals had spent two or three days in crude metal tubs constructed and launched from the north African coast.


The blazing heat and the overcrowding robbed many of the ability to stand.

Their experiences reminded Mr Galletto of his work in various warzones where he has worked as a nurse for the Red Cross.

“I’ve always worked in emergency situations, I’ve been in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I’ve done all these missions abroad. I work on the frontline in emergencies because I can handle it,” he said.

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Over the course of one hour, we saw him rush seven infants to a plastic cabin positioned at the top of pier, a sort of ad-hoc ‘A&E’ at the site.

Some were feverish and they all looked dehydrated but the Lampedusa-native said he thought they would probably be alright.

“I am a father, it’s like helping my own children. I don’t know how to explain it but if they’re alive, it is a joy for us,” he said.

“Why do you think the migrants take this risk – for themselves and for their children?” I asked.

“I think they must be fleeing something terrible, because when they get to the dock, they often take their knees and kiss the ground, thanking God. They think about those who don’t (survive) as well.”


Read more:
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Mr Galletto is based at the island’s hospital which was built to serve a community of 7,000.

But the staff now find themselves dealing with a continuous medical emergency.


More than 12,000 migrants have arrived in Lampedusa in the past week, putting the staff like Mr Galletto under serious strain.

It also means island residents have to wait for care.


A number complained to us as the staff readied a family from Mali for a journey that would take them to the Italian mainland for further treatment.

But the 65-year-old nurse has no regrets, for he only sees the humanity in every man, woman and child who he treats.

“I say, welcome everyone, because we are all sons of the same God.

“It is not important that we are white and they are black, we are God’s children, we have to help them.”


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