Italian deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini | Photo: ANSA/CIRO FUSCO
Italian deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini | Photo: ANSA/CIRO FUSCO

The Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini has said that a high percentage of cases of tuberculosis and scabies have been registered among migrants. This claim was disputed by pediatrician Marcello Lanari, who heads the emergency pediatric unit of the Policlinico Sant'Orsola in Bologna. The pediatrician said the diseases "are linked to poverty and are not brought by migrants."

Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Marcello Lanari, the director of the emergency pediatric unit of the hospital Policlinico Sant'Orsola in Bologna, have clashed over the connection between migration and the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis and scabies. 

The dispute started when Lanari in an interview spoke about the negative impact of the so-called Salvini decree  on underage migrants. The decree restricts access to healthcare for asylum seekers.

Salvini responded saying that "everybody is guaranteed the right to be treated, immigrants unfortunately have the record for TB and scabies."

He added that "Africa does not have the same hygienic-sanitary condition that we have and in fact, in 2017 alone, Italy had 3,900 cases of tuberculosis, of which over 60 percent" were diagnosed in foreigners, he said.

"These are facts, the rest is purely a political controversy," Salvini continued. He said he wished a good job to doctors and pediatricians "in the certainty that nobody wants to falsify data and evidence to wage political battles that have little to do" with health centers and hospitals.

Pediatrician says migrants don't bring diseases to Italy

Lanari said he had no desire to spark a controversy nor "take political sides" but stressed the diseases are "connected to poverty and are not brought by migrants, as sometimes suggested."

"I am thinking about tuberculosis, scabies and some infectious diseases that we will see spread in our society if poverty will continue to have such a strong impact," he continued. The pediatrician said all children will continue to be treated in hospital and no law can change this.

"I am a pediatrician, I have very little to do with politics and what I say simply reflects my professional experience." 

False myth of imported diseases

Opponents of the Salvini decree have said it unfairly strips asylum seekers of rights, including access to healthcare. The World Health Organization last January presented a report on the health of migrants and refugees in Europe saying the claim that migrants "bring diseases" is a "false myth." The report said that the health of migrants risks deteriorating after they settle in a host country due to poor living conditions.

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