Several unions and NGOs have called on the Italian government to "act immediately to protect the health of migrants" amid the coronavirus emergency. Migrants who live in shantytowns often can't take the necessary precautions against Covid-19.
In an open letter to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, the secretary of the union Flai-Cgil, Giovanni Mininni, has called on the government to "act immediately to protect the health of migrants forced to live in informal rural settlements and in shanty towns." The letter was co-signed by the directors of several prominent human rights organisations and NGOs like Terra Onlus.
In the letter, they said that many of the thousands of migrants who live in shantytowns are working in the farm sector, "which is essential more than ever for citizens' food safety and the common good."
Unsanitary conditions in camps and shantytowns
"As is well-known, the conditions of farmworkers who currently harvest products destined for our tables are often unacceptable: the shanty towns in which they are forced to live are unhealthy and dirty places, the antithesis of the very value of human rights," the letter said. "The risk of Covid-19 arriving in these camps, turning them into hotbeds of the pandemic, is reason for justified apprehension." To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, people are supposed to stay home and wash their hands frequently - two measures that people living in shantytowns and the like cannot take, because they do not have real homes or access to running water.
That's why the letter's signatories want the national and local governments to act, to provide safe, sanitary places for the migrants to live. "We believe that the prefects... can independently take up initiatives or adopt measures aimed at the safety of migrants and asylum seekers in the country, through the setting up and/or requisitioning of structures for lodging," they wrote.
You can read the full letter (in Italian) and find the complete list of signatories here.