In 2010, violent clashes erupted between migrants, residents and law enforcement officials in Calabria due to the unsustainable situation of deterioration there. Eight years after this so-called Rosarno revolt, "little or nothing has changed for nearly 3,000 migrant workers who once again this year came to the Gioia Tauro Plain for the citrus season" and are living "in inhumane conditions", according to Italian NGO Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU).
Since December, for the sixth year running, MEDU has set up a mobile medical clinic in the Gioia Tauro Plain area to provide healthcare assistance and orientation regarding socio-legal issues and workers rights to migrant farm workers there, who it said are victims of a gangmaster system.
"Dramatic living conditions"
"As in past years, the deterioration, the shacks, the plastic and rubbish force people into dramatic living conditions," MEDU said. Volunteer aid is provided in the old San Ferdinando tent camp, "which has become one of the largest ghettoes in Italy, where this year once again 2,000 people came to live in tents and crowded, freezing shacks" in the adjacent warehouse "that was supposed to be part of a new reception centre set up last August but that the organising entities want to close due to surveillance difficulties".
It said that in a nearby abandoned factory, "there are 300 workers who live in conditions of extreme hardship". MEDU said toilet facilities are non-existent or dilapidated. "There's no electricity, and water is taken from smelly bathrooms or a nearby fountain; it's not potable but some use it for drinking water too".
80 percent working unreported
According to MEDU, 80 percent of the workers are unreported, which is even higher than last year's figure. During its first month of operations, doctors and workers from the organization examined and provided information to 99 people, mainly men with an average age of 29 from Western Sub-Saharan Africa, 80 percent of whom had been in Italy for less than three years. It said 90 percent were legally documented to stay in Italy, while 10 percent lacked a valid stay permit (half of whom due to the fact that they didn't have access to asylum request procedures).
"I have political asylum but I ended up here, living in these conditions. How can you live like this? I asked for a place in the new tent camp, but they tell me that it's all full. I would like to rent an apartment, I can pay for it, but how can I? No one will rent you an apartment here," a Nigerian citizen identified as M. told MEDU.
Despite the recent opening of yet another tent camp, which this year is able to hold only 500 people, "the living conditions remain dramatically inhumane", MEDU said. It is asking for "the adoption of immediate measures that will make the commitments made by institutions concrete starting with this season, beginning with the socio-housing inclusion plan".