The shanty town of San Ferdinando after the fire | Photo: ANSA/MARCO COSTANTINO
The shanty town of San Ferdinando after the fire | Photo: ANSA/MARCO COSTANTINO

Moussa Ba is not the first migrant to die in a shanty town in Italy. Dozens have died in these makeshift settlements, in particular in the southern regions of Calabria, Puglia and Sicily. Most of them were very young immigrants.

Thousands of immigrants who work as day laborers in the region near Gioia Tauro, Puglia and Campania live in sheds and tents in overcrowded shanty towns. This includes a settlement in San Ferdinando, near Reggio Calabria, where a young Senegalese man died due to a fire on the night between Friday and Saturday. 

Moussa Ba, 29, was not the first migrant to die a horrific death in the San Ferdinando shanty town. Before him, Suruwa Jaiteh, an 18-year-old from Gambia, died on December 2 last year. Becky Moses, a 26-year-old from Nigeria, died on January 27, 2018 when a fire destroyed nearly 200 tents and shacks. Another woman, aged 27, was seriously injured in the fire. In addition, Soumalya Sacko from Mali was killed last June while he was trying to get construction material to build a shack in an area not far from the shanty town. 

There were also fires in San Ferdinando in December 2016 and January 2017, but they were limited to one shack. The occupants were injured during these incidents. 

A recurring tragedy 

In March 2017, two youths from Mali died in a fire that destroyed several shacks in a shanty town close to the towns of Rignano and San Severo. Several African migrants have moved there over the past 20 years to work as farm laborers. These migrants are reportedly often exploited by local gang masters. 

The victims of the 2017 fire, Mamadou Konate and Nouhou Doumbia, had refused, along with hundreds of other migrants, to leave the ghetto where they lived, which Foggia's prefect had ordered to clear. 

A few months before, another 20-year-old, Ivan Miecoganuchev, had died in a fire at the so-called 'Bulgarians' slum. In just a few minutes, the fire destroyed Miecoganuchev's shack, along with several others. The settlement is located in an area between Borgo Mezzanone and Borgo Tressanti, some 20 kilometers from Foggia.

Overall, seven fires over the past few years have been recorded inside the shanty town of Capitanata used by thousands of seasonal farm workers. 

The tragedy last November 

In November last year another youth, Bakary Secka, died in the slum of Borgo Mezzanone in Manfredonia, an illegal shanty town close to a center for asylum seekers. The fire was the second registered in two days. 

In 2013, a 20-year-old from Senegal died during a fire inside a tent camp in Campobello di Mazara near the Sicilian city of Trapani, where he lived in dire conditions with 500 immigrants employed as olive pickers during the harvest in the Belice valley. 

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