A man from sub-Saharan Africa was killed in a fire in the Sicilian city of Castelvetrano. The fire broke out at a migrant camp inside a former concrete plant. The property had been occupied for years by foreigners who come to the area to harvest olives.
The fire reportedly broke out by accident late Wednesday evening (September 29). It destroyed the migrant camp inside a former concrete plant in Castelvetrano, on the edge of the town of Campobello di Mazara. Migrants were staying at the facility in tents and shelters made from cardboard, fibre cement and wood.
Several teams of firefighters were needed to put out the blaze. The flames also seriously damaged some nearby abandoned warehouses and two vehicles.
Firefighters found the dead body of a man thought to be from sub-Saharan Africa at the camp.
Migrants: 'We need accommodation'
The other residents of the camp were able to escape the fire, but their shelters were destroyed and they had to spend the night on the streets.
On Thursday morning, a group of about 50 migrants from the camp protested by blocking a provincial road. The migrants set up wooden poles and nets in the middle of the road.
"We are asking for decent accommodation," the protesters said. "They have to understand that we have value, because without us the olives wouldn't be harvested. We are all brothers, those with stay permits as well as those without."
A self-managed migrant village
The former concrete factory had closed its doors in 2010. For years, it had been occupied by migrants who come to the area to harvest olives. The owner reportedly filed numerous complaints with law enforcement for violation of private property, but the migrant camp was never cleared.
The village was self-managed by the migrants, with a small bazaar, an area where a fire heated water for showers, and an area where meat was butchered.
"I am truly sad and pained over the fire that broke out last night at the migrant camp in our area, causing the death of a young sub-Saharan man," said Enzo Alfano, the mayor of Castelvetrano, after learning of the fire from municipal police. He said that the prefecture and city hall had worked on finding housing for the seasonal migrant farmworkers. "Now the fire means the administrative process must be sped up so that the housing units from the region can arrive in the area soon," Alfano said.