The Italian NGO Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU) has published a new report on migrant farm workers in the Gioia Tauro plain, six years since it began its intervention in the area and four years since its first "Terraingiusta" (Unjust Land) report. The report, titled "Terraingiusta: Fifth Report on the Living and Working Conditions of Migrant Farm Workers in the Gioia Tauro Plain", was presented in San Ferdinando, just north of the fields of Gioia Tauro on the southwest coast of the Southern region of Calabria.
"We must note with indignation that the unjust land from then has not only kept intact, or in some cases worsened, the traits of exploitation, abandonment, degradation and desperation, but it has also turned into a burnt land," the report said.
"In a little less than a year, in a sort of slow massacre, four people have burned to death in tragic and avoidable fires in makeshift shacks or ministry-provided tents," it said.
Exploitation and poor conditions for workers
The report said the "most distinctive aspects of life in one of the largest ghettoes in Europe" include worker exploitation, extremely precarious hygienic and sanitary conditions, degraded living conditions, widespread illegality, and obstacles in access to services and medical care. "More than 2,000 migrants come every year during the citrus harvest season to look for work or shelter," the report said.
MEDU's mobile clinic and legal professionals with the association "A Buon Diritto" provided healthcare and socio-legal assistance to 438 migrants in the most recent citrus harvest season.
The report said of those 438 migrants, "93 percent held a regular stay permit, but only half of those interviewed had worked in the last three months, and of those, only 60 percent had a work contract, in the majority of cases, short-term," the report said.
MEDU said "grey work", which is characterized by irregularities in pay through the declared days of work or violations of laws on working conditions, "remains the norm". "Less than half of patients with a regular stay permit were enrolled in the national healthcare system, in a context in which the terrible living conditions contributed to making the population's psychological and physical wellbeing more precarious," MEDU said.
'A dramatic picture unchanged for too many years'
MEDU called the situation outlined in the report "a dramatic picture" that it said "has remained culpably unchanged for too many years, and made this year even more distressing by the deaths, the evacuations without any sustainable and dignified alternative, the increasingly pronounced crisis in the citrus sector, and the risk of increased irregularity and marginalization following the enactment of the Security and Immigration Decree."
"The most recent evacuation, which took place on March 6 without sufficient planning and without a credible alternative plan, concluded with the umpteenth transfer of a few hundred people to a tent camp. The others left on their own in the preceding days," the report said.