The San Ferdinando camp. Credit: Rocco Rorandelli/MEDU
The San Ferdinando camp. Credit: Rocco Rorandelli/MEDU

Degradation, marginalization, and no real solutions from institutions are hallmarks of the life of thousands of migrant day laborers on farms in Calabria. The NGO MEDU has called for actions from the authorities to resolve the situation.

At least 3,500 migrant farm day laborers have over the past year lived in informal settlements throughout the Piana di Gioia Tauro in Calabria. The workers have served as low-cost labor for local producers of oranges, mandarin oranges and kiwis in ''work conditions marked by illegal practices, dilapidated housing and marginalization'', with political institutions ''incapable'' of initiatives to resolve the situation. 

The organization Medici per i Diritti Umani (MEDU) denounced such practices in a report presented in Rome, 'I Dannati della Terra', which focuses on the living and working conditions of foreign day laborers in the area. 

Living conditions of concern 

From December until April, the MEDU mobile clinic worked in the Piana di Gioia Tauro for the fifth consecutive year. The NGO said in the report that most of the day laborers continue to be concentrated in the industrial area of San Ferdinando, not far from Rosarno, ''in health and hygiene conditions of concern, aggravated by the lack of drinking water'' and experiencing ''frequent fires''. 

In the five months of activity, the MEDU mobile clinic provided assistance to 484 people, most of whom young workers from the West sub-Saharan area of Africa. About 100 women from Nigeria are there who are almost certainly the victims of human trafficking. Some 67 percent of those assisted have been in Italy for less than 3 years. 

From a legal standpoint, over 90 percent of the workers have a stay permit, most of whom for humanitarian reasons (45 percent) or for having requested asylum (41.4 percent). Fewer than 3 out of 10 have a work contract (27.82 percent), though this is a slight increase on previous years. Working conditions are marked by exploitation or characterized by a lack of respect for the rights of farm workers. 

From a health standpoint, the precarious living and working conditions ''seriously compromise the physical and mental health of seasonal workers'', MEDU reports. 

An 'Italian scandal ignored' 

The large ghettoes of migrant workers in the Piana di Gioia Tauro ''are yet another Italian scandal ignored within the public debate and by political institutions, which seem incapable of any real, wide-ranging initiative'', the NGO said. 

Institutional interventions ''are fragmentary, partial and ineffective. In August of last year, yet another camp was set up, the third, which has nevertheless not provided an adequate response to the housing needs of migrant workers,'' the report stated. The organization made some long-term recommendations in the report to deal with the situation, such as a multi-year social housing program, strengthening of the monitoring of farms, and facilitated access to healthcare services for migrant workers.

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