Many migrants are forced to work in Italian fields over the summer for as many as 12 hours a day for almost no pay. At night, they sleep in tents under unhygienic conditions and are even forced to go without food.

In the Lecce province of the southern Puglia region, about 300 migrants live near the Masseria Boncuri. A camp has been set up with 30 tents from the interior ministry and six from the municipality, while 50 people live almost without any sort of shelter at all. 

"There are not enough cots, the drinking water is boiling hot because the dispenser is exposed to the sun, the bathrooms and showers are filthy and difficult to use and there is no service that ensures everyone will get a meal," ANSA was told by Donatella Tanzariello, lawyer for the Italian Refugees Council (CIR), an organization offering assistance services to migrants.

The Nardo camp is only one of many such cases. Other camps facing similar difficulties include those in Rosarno in the Calabria region, Castel Volturno in the Campania region, Paterno in Sicily as well as in Cuneo in northern Italy.

"The migrants are often the same. They move from one place to another in line with harvest seasons," Tanzariello said. Most of them are young and have usually been in Italy for a very long time, some even a decade. Originally from places like Tunisia, Sudan, Chad, Mali and the Ivory Coast, they had some official status, but this is nearly useless because they are exploited, she added.

No rights and dismal pay

Lorries arrive in the morning near the Nardo farm, bringing the migrants to work in the fields and take them back in the evening. Their wages depend on how much they harvest and the money is either paid illegally or with a short-term contract that ranges from 15 euros to 35 euros for the day. The migrants have to pay for their lunch and transport.

"If you don't enter this circuit, you can't find work. There are no forms of legal intermediation," Tanzariello stressed. In 2016, Italy passed a law against this form of exploitation, the lawyer noted. However, the workers "continue to be utterly invisible.Their rights need to be protected," she said.

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