Police operation against the exploitation of migrants in the plane of Gioia Tauro on March 4, 2021|  Photo: ANSA/Ufficio Stampa Polizia di Stato
Police operation against the exploitation of migrants in the plane of Gioia Tauro on March 4, 2021| Photo: ANSA/Ufficio Stampa Polizia di Stato

Italian authorities have arrested nine people accused of exploiting farm workers in the plane of Gioia Tauro, in the southern region of Calabria. The victims include several migrants of sub-Saharan origin living in the tent camp of San Ferdinando.

Italian police on March 4 arrested nine people -- including three who were jailed and six who were placed under house arrest -- for allegedly exploiting migrant workers in the plain of Gioia Tauro, in Calabria.

The suspects, including employers and alleged gangmasters, are accused of illegal intermediation and labor exploitation and of fictitious ownership of assets, among other charges, investigative sources said.

The arrests were carried out following an investigation by the police in Reggio Calabria and Gioia Tauro.

Investigators said they discovered that several migrant farmworkers of sub-Saharan origin were being exploited. The migrants were staying at the tent camp of San Ferdinando, in the province of Reggio Calabria. The camp was dismantled in March 2019.

A criminal network

The arrests, search operations and seizure of assets by police were carried out in operations in the province of Reggio Calabria and in the city of Caserta. The investigation concerns several episodes that took place between June 2018 and June 2019, investigative sources said.

The sources said an investigation into local farms, complaints filed by a number of farmworkers and wiretaps revealed a criminal context in which employers, gangmasters and middlemen exploited workers.

The gangmasters and middlemen recruited low-cost foreign workers and employers exploited them in the fields, taking advantage of their extreme poverty, investigative sources said.

Entrepreneur considered close to local criminal syndicate arrested

The main suspect in the so-called 'Rasoterra' investigation has been identified as Filippo R., a 52-year-old entrepreneur considered close to the clans Piromalli and Mole' of Calabria's 'Ndrangheta criminal organization.

Two alleged gangmasters were also detained: Senegal's Ibrahim N., known as "Rasta", 40, and Kader K., called "Cafù", 41, from the Ivory Coast.

Others were placed under house arrest, including Filippo R.'s son who is involved in the case along with his sister, who is under investigation for allegedly acting as the fictitious owner of the farm that was seized on March 4 as part of the investigation.

The company was in fact managed by the father who exploited migrants living in the San Ferdinando tent camp, investigators said.

Taking advantage of their difficult situation, R. and other entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector allegedly recruited African farmhands, forcing them to work in inhumane and dangerous conditions.

The migrants, who were also forced to work under the rain, were paid 50 cents for each citrus box they picked, investigators said.

The probe also proved Filippo R.'s contacts with gangmasters and middlemen who controlled migrants working in the fields on his behalf, the sources said.

"Wiretaps unveiled a disquieting criminal context", said the head of the local flying squad, Francesco Rattà.

"Some workers, who lived at the tent camp, were recruited by gangmasters and paid €25 a day, nearly half of the salary established by the collective agreement."


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