The aftermath of a fire that broke out in a migrant encampment in Borgo Mezzanone in southern Italy, March 2020 | Photo: ANSA
The aftermath of a fire that broke out in a migrant encampment in Borgo Mezzanone in southern Italy, March 2020 | Photo: ANSA

At least 30 shacks used by migrants near the city of Foggia in southern Italy were burnt down over the weekend. Over 1,500 migrants live in the makeshift encampment in Borgo Mezzanone near a migrant reception center.

Another fire broke out on Saturday night in Borgo Mezzanone, a makeshift settlement near a migrant reception center not far from the city of Foggia in southern Italy. 

The fire, which was reported to be accidental, burned down about 30 shacks created for the most part out of sheet metal and cardboard. None of the over 1,500 migrants that normally live in the encampment were injured. 

Seven firefighting teams were called to the scene and were able to put out the flames only at dawn on Sunday. 

Started by a short circuit 

The initial assessment into the cause of the fire found that it was likely to have been sparked by a short circuit originating in illegal power hookups. 

The web of cables crisscrossing Borgo Mezzanone was also the cause of a fire in April 2019 in which a 26-year-old Gambian national died. 

Among the causes of the frequent fires in the so-called shantytown are the embers left alight by migrants from fires they use to keep themselves warm during cold winter nights. This was the case in November 2018, when another young African man died in the flames. 

Another fire caused by the explosion of a gas canister later led to the death of a 30-year-old Nigerian woman, who had suffered burns over 90% of her body. 

Gradual dismantling of encampment 

Efforts coordinated by the prefect's office have long been underway in Borgo Mezzanone to gradually dismantle the encampment. From February to July 2019, in four phases, some 74 shacks were demolished and 130 migrants were evacuated. In the coming weeks, housing units inside the nearby reception center for asylum seekers will also be dismantled. 

The center is currently occupied by 300 migrants. 

There are eight informal encampments and occupied areas housing about 2,500 foreign nationals in the Foggia province in Italy's southern province of Apulia. This number generally triples during the asparagus harvesting season first and then during the tomato harvesting season. 

One of the encampments is in Borgo Mezzanone near Foggia, the other one in Torretta Antonacci between San Severo and Rignano Garganico. Moreover, five abandoned farmhouses and a former factory have been occupied by the migrants in Foggia. 

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