Patrol car of the Polizia di Stato in Palermo / ANSA
Patrol car of the Polizia di Stato in Palermo / ANSA

The Palermo police have discovered a criminal network exploiting unaccompanied migrant minors taken from reception facilities and used in pizzerias and fields for very low wages.

Eight people have been placed under investigation in Borgetto, near Palermo, for exploiting unaccompanied migrant minors staying as guests in their reception facilities. They are accused of recruiting the young people for very low-paying jobs in pizzerias and fields. 

The police have informed those under investigation that they are prohibited from working in the hotel and restaurant sector as well as agricultural activities and the reception of migrant minors. Some of the young people were working for 12 euros per day. The investigation is being conducted by the judicial police of the prosecutor's office at the child protection court of Palermo and began after inspection into the precarious conditions in which some unaccompanied foreign minors were found. 

The minors were hosted at the New River di Borgetto (PA) community, run by the social cooperative EsseQuadro of Florence and represented and managed by Andrea Meli, one of those under investigation. Wiretaps that were later corroborated by witness statements by the youths, who were questioned in the presence of psychologists, ascertained several incidents involving the exploitation of minors. 

The case of a young Nigerian 

A young Nigerian said that he had been employed at the La Sorgente pizzeria, run by Vincenzo Alduina and Maria Teresa Lombardo, son-in-law and daughter of the building in which the New River facilities are located. He was paid 50-60 euros per week, compared with the 1,200 euros provided for by the national contract for this position. One of the youths suffered a serious burn to his hand while working and only later - after being threatened and told not to say how he had been injured - was he taken to the emergency room. 

Francesco and Pietro Lo Baido and Giuseppe Di Bella, agricultural entrepreneurs of Partinico and Borgetto are accused of recruiting minors and using them in hard farm labor on their holdings for 12 euros a day. The inspection also showed serious problems with a lack of hygienic conditions within New River and a severe lack of food and water supplies. The minors were forced to fill tanks with water from fountains and then walk for kilometers with them. 

Reception facilities under investigation 

Among those under investigation is also Giuseppe Criminisi, psychologist and in charge of New River, who allowed entrepreneurs into the facilities to choose youths they wanted to employ. Several others have been notified and placed under investigation. Checks are underway to ascertain the position of the managers of another facility linked to those under investigation.

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