Violence in Southern Italy Exposes Extreme Neglect and Exploitation of Seasonal Migrant Workers

For Immediate Release

Violence in Southern Italy Exposes Extreme Neglect and Exploitation of Seasonal Migrant Workers

ROME - The recent violence in Calabria, Southern Italy, has placed the plight
of the region's seasonal migrant workers in the international
spotlight. Following the outburst of violence against the migrant
workers, sites where thousands of migrants have been living since
November 2009, are now completely empty. Doctors Without
Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounces the ongoing neglect
and exploitation of this vulnerable group.

Most migrants have been transferred by Italian authorities to centers
for migrants in other parts of Southern Italy, and many have had to
leave most of their belongings behind.

"Some people were very reluctant to leave because they had not been
paid for their work yet, others were afraid of being detained or
deported," said Alessandra Tramontano, MSF's medical coordinator. "But
they were so scared that they felt they had no choice but to leave."
MSF teams have also visited seven migrant workers who were hospitalized
after being victims of gunshots or beatings.

"The recent episodes of violence and hostility are an extreme symptom
of the chronic neglect seasonal migrant workers are subjected to in
Italy," said Loris de Filippi, MSF operational coordinator. "While they
are crucial to the labor force in Italian agriculture, they are easily
exploited."

Seasonal migrant workers in Southern Italy are subject to extremely
dire living conditions. They often live in abandoned houses or
factories, exposed to rain and cold weather in winter. The sites have
poor sanitation and access to health care is limited. "Most health
conditions our medical team treats are related to their appalling
living and working conditions, such as respiratory infections,
osteo-muscular pain or gastroenteritis."

MSF has provided humanitarian assistance to seasonal migrant workers in
different regions of Southern Italy since 2003 (Puglia, Campania,
Calabria, Sicilia, Lazio, and Basilicata). The latest project, in Piana
di Gioia Tauro, started in December 2009, as migrants gathered for the
fruit-picking season. Along with a mobile clinic, an MSF team visited
the main sites where migrants lived. Between December 21st and 23rd,
MSF distributed kits containing blankets, buckets, and other essential
items to alleviate the suffering of 2,000 migrant workers in the winter
season.

Since it began working with seasonal migrants in Southern Italy, MSF
has denounced the appalling living conditions and pushed authorities to
take measures to improve the humanitarian situation of migrants. With
two reports ("A Season in Hell," 2008 and "The fruits of hypocrisy," 2005),
MSF exposed the dramatic conditions of thousands of migrants who work
during all seasons of the year in the farms of Southern Italy.

"Little has changed for the thousands of migrant working in Italian
farms since we started in 2003. Year after year, our teams go back to
the same areas and witness the same horrible conditions, which we try
to alleviate by providing medical humanitarian aid. It is about time
Italian authorities take measures to improve the conditions of these
workers, respect their dignity and improve their access to healthcare,"
said Loris de Filippi.

 

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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas.

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