Remains of shacks following a fire that broke out at the San Ferdinando tent camp in the province of Reggio Calabria, February 16, 2019. Credit: ANSA
Remains of shacks following a fire that broke out at the San Ferdinando tent camp in the province of Reggio Calabria, February 16, 2019. Credit: ANSA

Andrea Tripoli, the mayor of San Ferdinando in the Italian region of Calabria, has ordered the immediate clearing of a tent camp hosting migrant farm workers employed on the agricultural plains of neighboring Gioia Tauro. In the past year, fires at the tent camp have killed three migrants.

The tent camp in San Ferdinando, where three migrants have died in fires over the past year, will soon be cleared as a result of an ordinance issued by the mayor Andrea Tripodi. The ordinance states that demolition of surrounding illegal structures was necessary to "avert serious damage to health and public safety." 

A thousand migrants currently in tent camp 

According to data from the Italian interior ministry, there are currently about 1,000 migrants living in the conglomeration of plastic and sheet metal at the San Ferdinando tent camp. The camp is located not far from the "official" tent camps set up by the region of Calabria, which are equipped with restrooms and video surveillance. 

The migrants living at the tent camp work in the nearby fields of the Gioia Tauro plain, and their numbers increase significantly during the citrus harvest, which normally falls between November and February.

Police notified migrants of the mayor's evacuation ordinance, which was translated into French, English, and Arabic. A subsequent notice from the interior ministry said the clearing is necessary for reasons of public health and safety, and that every legal migrant will be ensured a place to stay in one of the country's official reception structures, such as a SPRAR, CARA, or CAS. 

After giving notification of the ordinance, police conducted checks on the migrants' status, in some cases with the help of cultural mediators. 

Second evacuation ordinance issued by city 

This is the second evacuation ordinance issued by the mayor. The first, in October 2017, was never enacted. Since then, there have been four fires at the camp, either due to arson or to braziers lit by the migrants in order to warm themselves. Three of those fires ended in tragedy, with a total of three deaths. The only fire that left no victims was one last New Year's, which likely broke out after a smaller fire was lit for warmth during freezing temperatures. Just a few weeks after that fire, on February 16, a fire killed a 29-year-old man from Senegal named Moussa Ba. His body was found inside a camper that had been set up as a makeshift shelter. 

On December 2, 2018, an 18-year-old from The Gambia named Suruwa Jaiteh was killed in a fire at the camp. In January 2018, an arson fire at the camp destroyed 200 shacks and killed a 26-year-old Nigerian woman named Becky Moses. A 27-year-old woman was seriously burned in that fire. 

Mayor Tripodi's evacuation measure states that lawsuits against the ordinance must be brought to the Calabria regional administrative court (TAR) or with an extraordinary suit filed with the president of the Republic, within 60 or 120 days, respectively, from the date the notice was served. 

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