A migrant encampment in the Foggia region | Photo: ANSA/Elemosineria Apostolica
A migrant encampment in the Foggia region | Photo: ANSA/Elemosineria Apostolica

A migrant worker employed in the fields of southern Italy has claimed that he and others were exploited and beaten in a video testimony shared by a local trade union.

The FLAI-CGIL trade union in Foggia (representing Agricultural workers and part of Italy's largest umbrella trade union CGIL) released three short videos of a person they say is a migrant fieldworker recounting his experiences on Sunday, January 16. In the videos, the person claims that they and others were exploited and abused by a 'mafia' managing migrant fieldworkers in the region.

The man says that a "mafia group" runs the 'Granghetto' (large ghetto) in Torretta Antonacci -- a shantytown in the Foggia region occupied largely by migrant fieldworkers, where "everyone is afraid."

Migrant: 'Beaten after demanding higher pay'

The man says that he and other workers were paid only €4.50 per hour for their work in the fields and had €5 withheld daily for transportation. He also said that when he demanded higher pay, he was physically assaulted.

"I arrived from Turin in 2020 and they gave me a bed in a container for which I paid €150," he said. "Every morning I and 20 other workers were taken with a van... to work in the fields, from 6 am, for between eleven to twelve hours. When I rebelled and demanded higher pay, someone came to beat me when I was sleeping. I even ended up in hospital."

Union: Mafia exploiting migrant workers

The local chapter of FLAI CGIL released the videos on Youtube and also shared them -- along with a longer text post -- on their Facebook page.

In their post, the union said that the videos showed that "violence and organized crime are seen in the Granghetto of Torretta Antonacci." They said that " [a] power structure has been created, and is being run like an organized crime operation in the style of the Mafia or Camorra, and regulated through a climate of terror" in the shantytown and that "those who try to rebel become victims of the violent, dangerous system."

There have been long been reports that migrant fieldworkers in southern Italy face severe exploitation -- extremely low wages, bad working conditions and abuse; migrant rights activists and unions have repeatedly called on authorities to do more to dismantle the "gangmaster system" in agricultural regions like Foggia.

Human rights activists have also criticized living conditions in 'ghettos' in agricultural regions of Italy -- in the shantytowns occupied largely by undocumented migrants who work at local farms. The 'Granghetto' shantytown made headlines in April of last year, when three migrants were shot nearby and one victim lost an eye.


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