Migrants were taken to work in smelly vans, then monitored with GPS systems while delivering flyers | Credit: Guardia di Finanza
Migrants were taken to work in smelly vans, then monitored with GPS systems while delivering flyers | Credit: Guardia di Finanza

Italian authorities have uncovered a serious case of exploitation, after it was found that migrants were being forced to work under terrible conditions and were being tracked by their employers using GPS devices.

Finance police in Bolzano uncovered a case of about 40 undocumented migrant workers who were being forced to work under the control of a GPS tracking system. The migrants were mostly from Pakistan, India, and Algeria. The work consisted of the door-to-door delivery of advertising flyers in the regions of Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto, and Lombardy. 

Police charged seven people, all of whom are residents of Vicenza: five Indian citizens between the ages of 29 and 51, and two Italian citizens, one aged 21 and one aged 65. 

Terrible working conditions 

During investigations, police found that the foreign workers were being forced to work in undignified conditions and under continuous surveillance for more than 15 hours a day, six days a week, earning between €500 and €700 per month. 

The serious case of migrant worker exploitation was uncovered after one of the undocumented workers was involved in a traffic accident. His "employer" demanded compensation for damages. The migrant worker, in desperation, turned to the finance police in the town of Egna. 

After the finance police conducted initial checks to verify working hours, as well as the irregular way of conducting the working relationship, they took up a more thorough investigation. This led investigators a company based in Vicenza that had recruited a large number of workers. 

Serious exploitation 

It soon became clear to nvestigators that they were facing a case of very serious migrant worker exploitation. The workers were being driven to their workplaces in dilapidated vans, were living in poor hygienic and sanitary conditions, and were being deprived of their identification documents, including ID cards and stay permits. 

In addition, the workers were subject to routine threats of firing or beatings, especially if a worker dared to speak to authorities about their true working conditions. The workers used bicycles provided by the employers for the deliveries. They were forced to bring a GPS tracker with them, which allowed the organization to use a smartphone app to monitor their movements, as well as the speed with which they delivered the flyers. 

The entire operation had been set up through an ad-hoc network of businesses and companies that all led back to the same people. The headquarters of the operation was in Rosa, in the province of Vicenza. (Migrants were accompanied to work on old, smelly vehicles, then checked through Gps systems as they were delivering leaflets on their bicycles, pictured here. Credit: Guardia di Finanza)

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