The dismantling operations of the San Ferdinando shantytown in the Reggio Calabria province on March 6,2019. 
The dismantling operations of the San Ferdinando shantytown in the Reggio Calabria province on March 6,2019. PHOTO/ANSA/MARCO COSTANTINO

The shantytown of San Ferdinando in the southern region of Calabria has been dismantled by the Italian authorities. Hundreds of migrants had been living there in extremely precarious conditions. Three had died in three different fires in the shantytown in recent years.

The Italian authorities on Wednesday have started to dismantle a shantytown in San Ferdinando, in the Reggio Calabria province in the southern boot of the peninsula. The interior ministry has said that 600 people were involved in the operation, including police, firemen, and healthcare workers. 

The entire zone has been cordoned off by a contingent from the forces of order. The around 900 migrants still living in the shantytown left the area with their belongings on overnight Tuesday or were moved on Wednesday morning. Some will be taken to another tent city in the region and to reception centers in Calabria, though some have refused. 

Situation had become unsustainable 

After an inspection by the authorities, the dismantling and the clearing of materials in asbestos, bulldozers began to knock down the shantytown, which had been at the center of heated debate in Italy. The shantytown had at one point hosted as many as 1,500 migrants in conditions of extreme hygienic and structural precariousness. Most of the migrants worked illegally at local orange and olive groves for little pay.

Over the past few years, the agglomerate - composed of precious lodgings and crisscrossed with open-air, nausea-inducing sewage - has seen three of its migrant inhabitants die in fires. The death of a Senegalese man in February prompted the Reggio Calabria prefect Michele di Bari to speed up the process and active all forces available to dismantle the camp. 

Some migrants left after the announcement. A group of the inhabitants evacuated Wednesday will be hosted in a tent city set up by the Calabria regional government in which 300 new places have been made, while the others will be taken to reception centers. About 80 migrants refused the offers made by the municipality. 

From words to facts, says Salvini 

''As promised, after years of useless talk, we have moved from words to facts,'' said Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini in commenting on the dismantling. Reggio Calabria prefect Michele di Bari underscored that all went as planned and that the demolition was a combination of ''the concept of legality and that of humanity."

However, Doctors For Human Rights (Medici per i Diritti Umani, or MEDU) and the civil rights association A Buon Diritto see the decision to clear the San Ferdinando shantytown as negative. They say that they are not in disagreement with the choice to evacuate a settlement with extremely poor hygienic conditions but that a lack of sufficient planning had made it impossible to properly protect the dignity and rights of those hosted there. 

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