South African political refugee Jerry Essan Masslo was robbed and killed 30 years ago in the Campania fields | Photo: ANSA Archives
South African political refugee Jerry Essan Masslo was robbed and killed 30 years ago in the Campania fields | Photo: ANSA Archives

Jerry Essan Masslo was killed during the robbery that targeted migrant farmworkers. His murder shook Italy. It led the government to issue the first measures to regularize migrants.

On August 21, 30 years after his murder, Sant'Egidio, a catholic human rights charity based in Rome, paid homage to Jerry Essan Masslo. Masslo was a South African refugee who had escaped the Apartheid regime. He lived in a Sant'Egidio center in the late 1980s. He was killed during the robbery of a shack where he lived with other migrant farmworkers who picked tomatoes to survive in Italy. 


His murder shook Italy and led to the first major anti-racism protest in October 1989. Shortly after, the government at that time to issued the Martelli Law. It was Italy’s first major immigration law. It also, according to Sant'Egidio, allowed people from all over the world to request asylum in Italy; before, only people from eastern Europe could get asylum.  

'Very serious problems remain' 

"Since then many things have changed," Sant'Egidio said, "but a very serious problem remains concerning foreign day laborers who are exploited for little money and forced to live in extremely precarious lodgings."

The organization warned that "intolerance and xenophobia are still around - and have unfortunately grown in recent times - and they must be condemned. Italy, if it cares about its future, must get rid of all the roots of hatred and discrimination and focus on integration, rights, and decent work for all."

Silent march to remember Masslo 

Sant'Egidio announced that a silent march will be held on August 24 at the Villa Literno cemetery in the Campania region, where a delegation of Italians and foreigners from Rome, Naples, and other cities will commemorate Masslo's death. 

Afterwards, flowers will be laid on some of the graves next to Masslo's. These are the graves of unidentified migrants who died while working in the fields.
 

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