A camp where the migrants, who were forced to work in 'brutal and inhumane' conditions, were living | Credit: POLIZIA DI STATO/ANSA
A camp where the migrants, who were forced to work in 'brutal and inhumane' conditions, were living | Credit: POLIZIA DI STATO/ANSA

Italian authorities have arrested six people who allegedly exploited hundreds of migrant workers in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. Another 19 people are being investigated for migrant labor exploitation.

Police found hundreds of legal migrants working on farms in the area of Vulture Melfese in Italy's southern Basilicata region under "brutal and inhumane conditions." The migrants were forced to work 12 hours a day for little money, which they were only paid at the end of the harvest season, investigators said. 

The victims were forced to pay for water, charging their cell phones, and using restrooms in the shantytown they were forced to live in, according to police. 

A total of 19 people are being investigated, and six people are on house arrest: an Italian, considered the boss of the operation, and five gangmasters, all of whom are foreigners. 

Police carried out the arrests on Wednesday, October 9, as part of a coordinated investigation by the Potenza prosecutor's office. 

Migrants exploited in camps, lived crowded into one house 

The migrants all had regular stay permits and regular work contracts that, however, were never registered. They reportedly lived together in a crowded house owned by the organisation's boss. They were recruited by the gangmasters for a salary of about four euros for each crate harvested. Each full crate weighed about 300 kilos, and migrants averaged about 25 crates each per day. 

The gangmasters took a cut of about 10 percent, and migrants also had to pay out of pocket in advance for 50-cent tokens to use the restrooms, recharge their cell phones, and to wash themselves. 

Investigation lasted two years

The region had organised a reception structure in the area, but the migrants were forced to avoid the center so the gangmasters wouldn't be put at risk. 

The investigation lasted two years. The prosecutor said "institutions and associations in the sector, who in any case do meritorious work, could have, however, informed us about what they had seen, but some of them said they were scared." 
 

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