An illegal settlement that houses migrants who work in the fields of Borgo Mezzanone | Photo: ANSA/Franco Cautillo
An illegal settlement that houses migrants who work in the fields of Borgo Mezzanone | Photo: ANSA/Franco Cautillo

A mobile unit, set up in a camper, will bring medical, psychological, and legal assistance to migrant farmworkers living in shantytowns in the province of Foggia, southern Italy.

This project was presented on Thursday, October 10, at the Foggia prefecture. The mobile unit will visit seven shantytown settlements in the province of Foggia, also known as Capitanata, where many migrant farmworkers are living. 

The camper will transport a team made up of a psychologist, an intercultural mediator, an attorney, and a nurse, to the various camps. 

The initiative is financed by the Italian Interior Ministry's Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund 2014-2020 (FAMI), and sponsored by the Region of Puglia, the Foggia local health agency (ASL), and the University of Foggia.

"We have to reach people in need" 

The director-general of the Foggia local health agency (ASL), Vito Piazzolla, said the project has the task "of reaching people in need, regardless of their condition, where they come from, what they do, and why they're here."

"In Capitanata, we have a migrant population totaling 13.14 percent of the entire population of the Puglia region," Piazzolla said. "Here we help 25 percent of these people." 

Foggia prefect Raffaele Grassi said: "We want to be close to the community. We like to serve the community, which is made up of citizens of Foggia and foreigners." 

In many rural areas of Italy, the exploitation of migrant farmworkers is a huge problem. The UN recently published a report on this and called on authorities to do more to combat the issue.

The gangmaster problem

Giuseppe Campanaro, director of the Foggia branch of the farmers' confederation Confagricoltura, said the organisation wants to see job centers in the area strengthened. He said there should be official government institutions, "who can help us to bring workers to farms."

Campanaro's comments came at a meeting to discuss ways to fight exploitation by gangmasters. 

"We are trying to make consumers understand that farms are not made up of criminals," Campanaro said. "The entrepreneurs are professional people who work together with the workers and are the first to be happy to hire people without enslaving them." 

Not enough workers signed up with job centers

In Capitanata, the tomato industry alone needs 3,000 farmworkers per day. 

According to data provided by Confagricoltura, there are currently about 50 workers signed up with the job centers, which is an absolutely insufficient number considering that each farm needs an average of 11 workers per day. 

Campanaro said the job centres don't manage to meet farmworker demand in terms of labor, "despite the good intentions of various governments on a central level." 

Foggia prosecutor Ludovico Vaccaro said among the many causes of the gangmaster problem is the "difficulty in matching supply and demand in farmwork." He added: "But I believe that through computer systems, such as apps, we can overcome these problems."

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