Foreign workers at a farm near Siracusa, in Sicily | Photo: ANSA/UFFICIO STAMPA GDF
Foreign workers at a farm near Siracusa, in Sicily | Photo: ANSA/UFFICIO STAMPA GDF

A reported 800 residents in the area of Cassibile, some 15 kilometers from the Sicilian city of Siracusa, have signed a petition against the construction of a village meant to host seasonal farm workers.

A petition against the construction of a village for seasonal farm workers in Cassibile, 15 kilometers from Siracusa on Sicily, has been signed by 800 people, the promoters of the initiative said on January 5.

The organizers of the petition said that the initiative does not go against the people that would stay in the village but is instead aimed at safeguarding the dignity of workers who live in makeshift tent camps.

The population of over 7,000 people living in the area between Cassibile and Fontane Bianche includes today at least 1,000 fully integrated migrants.

Each year, hundreds of seasonal workers arrive in the area from all over Italy to work in the fields, creating makeshift tent camps.

The signatures have been sent to the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, and to the governor of the region, Nello Musumeci.

The petition

"It is unthinkable that the same mistakes continue to be committed at the expense of citizens," said Paolo Romani, the promoter of the petition and the last president of the municipal council of Cassibile.

"We ask to be heard before actions are taken and money is wasted."

According to Romano, the location chosen for the village is wrong and would cause tension between local residents and workers.

The signatories of the petition are instead asking authorities to build centers or villages for seasonal workers -- the majority of whom are migrants -- far from city centers. They also want mayors from neighboring towns affected by the phenomenon to be involved in the decision and to "set up villages in the provincial territory between north, center and south so as not to concentrate arrivals only in one area."

The camp is being set up by the municipality of Siracusa in collaboration with the local prefecture.

The initiative of the city of Siracusa

The mayor of Siracusa, Francesco Italia, has repeatedly stressed that the local administration is solving for the first time a decades-long problem. "Soon, we will be able to start work so that we will be ready to welcome workers in March," said city councilor Rita Gentile.

"We have funding for €242,000 to create facilities that allow to host and set up the camp with sewer connections, electric power, roads and for the construction of 17 housing units and six units for bathrooms, as well as fencing."

The housing units, which have been given to the prefecture, will be built over "an area of 15,000 square meters" that could also be useful for the civil protection, the mayor said.

"We should instead present a common front to fight the gang-master system, a real problem."

The camp is designed to host some 170 people, although not in a condition suitable to prevent the spread of coronavirus during the health emergency.

Last year, Cassibile hosted some 250 workers.

The deadline for the city of Siracusa and three cities in the province to apply for funding for hosting facilities will expire in a few days. "The city of Siracusa wants to obtain more funding to provide the camp with an area to cook and eat," the mayor said.


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