The San Ferdinando shantytown after the fire Credit: MEDU
The San Ferdinando shantytown after the fire Credit: MEDU

Two weeks after a fire in the San Ferdinando shantytown in Calabria's Piana di Gioia Tauro, which over the night between January 26 and 27 destroyed most of the makeshift housing migrant day laborers in the area and led to the death of a 26-year-old woman. Two Italian human rights organizations have deplored the conditions.

Medici per i Diritti Umani (MEDU) and the Italian branch of Amnesty International have said that ''the shameful inability of the institutions to provide urgent and concrete solutions in response to the dramatic housing and sanitary conditions that almost 2,000 foreign agricultural workers are forced to live in raises alarm and concern.'' They called ''on the responsible institutions to guarantee immediate, secure and dignified living conditions for all those affected.'' 

Reception and healthcare access lacking

 The tent structure sent up by the Civil Protection in the hours following the fire and able to hold only 198 people, ''was dismantled in the morning of February 8th. Only a part of those hosted were thereafter transferred to a new and nearby tent city set up with funds from the Ministry of the Interior. The new tent city is comprised of 29 tents that can accommodate up to only 174 people and that lack toilets, water and electricity.The tents are furthermore mounted on bare earth, in an area that is highly susceptible to flooding. Nevertheless, according to a report by ARPACAL (the Regional Agency for the Protection of the Environment of Calabria) delivered a few days ago to the Prefecture of Reggio Calabria, it is urgent to secure as soon as possible the old tent city area and to safeguard the lives of those who live there from the high degree of toxic residue "due to uncontrolled combustion of heterogeneous waste producing dioxins and other pollutants endangering human health''.'' 

The initiatives ''implemented thus far resemble a sort of patchwork of emergency solutions, which do not succeed in guaranteeing, even provisionally, adequate accommodation and safe living conditions for all those who reside in the industrial area of San Ferdinando,'' MEDU and Amnesty International said in a statement. ''With just a few spots available, it has only been possible to provide a bed to those who were sleeping in the Civil Protection tent (and probably not to everyone), leaving the inhabitants of the old tent city to sleep on plastic heaps and burnt rubber. Moreover, given the proximity to the area to be reclaimed, no guarantees have yet been given regarding the possible reach of the toxic residue,'' they noted. 

Dignified solutions needed

 In light of the ''concrete risks in terms of health and safety highlighted on several occasions by the institutions, MEDU and Amnesty International Italy strongly urge for a decent reception solution with adequate sanitary and safety standards in order to protect the health and the fundamental rights of every person living in the area.'' The statement went on to note that ''Regarding the medium-long term solutions proposed, MEDU and Amnesty International Italy call for a concrete commitment to achieve the long-awaited goal of all institutions, that of widespread reception, which to date remains only an empty slogan with no content.'' 

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