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Friday, August 31, 2018

Migrants from southern Italy rebel against exploitation in the countryside

Por Jade

The immigrants from southern Italy are rebelling against the exploitation they suffer in the countryside. In less than two days 16 foreign day laborers have been killed on the roads of southern Italy, in Foggia, in the Puglia region. Last Saturday a van collided with a truck loaded with the tomatoes that had been picked up and four workers who were traveling in it died on the spot. On Monday there was another accident in identical conditions, in which 12 emigrant laborers died. According to the testimonies of several survivors, the group traveled in the back of the vans, without even a window from which to see the outside or through which a little air entered.

In Italy, a country currently governed by a populist coalition with strong anti-immigration rhetoric, foreign laborers have struggled for years to improve their conditions. On Wednesday, hundreds of immigrant day laborers went on strike in Foggia to denounce labor exploitation and lack of security in their work, an activity where there is a shortage of rights that has now become a complex business often controlled by criminal organizations , the so-called agro-mafias, which in Italy moves about 4,800 million euros, according to the unions. Migrant day laborers who work in the countryside in Italy endure conditions that they consider unworthy. They work between 8 and 12 hours a day, with little rest, no contract or right to subsidies for unemployment or leave, and they charge one euro for every 100 kilos of tomatoes. The product is usually sold in boxes of 300 kilos at a price ranging between 28 and 30 euros, but day laborers, in total, receive a payment of between 20 and 30 euros a day - 20% less women and always paid in black - according to the Placido Rizzotto Observatory of the FLAI union, which numbers between 400,000 and 430,000 the number of workers likely to suffer exploitation conditions.

Most live in the countryside, in the open air or in slums in subhuman situations. They agree on transport, which is also usually precarious and for which they usually have to pay, and accommodation with the foremen, intermediaries who assure landowners that a precise number of people arrive on their land every day. The situation is such that the Minister of Agriculture, Gian Marco Centinaio, declared in a televised interview that "there is slavery in Italy": "There is a chain of exploitation of the workforce that we must fight." He continued: "We cannot say in Europe that we do not want Burmese or Cambodian rice because in those countries the children are exploited for two euros a day in the rice fields [...] and then in Italy to allow this to happen ". Enzo Moavero, Foreign Minister, showed his solidarity towards the victims by recalling the tragedy of Marcinelle, in which 136 Italian miners died in Belgium in the fifties. "Also our parents and our grandparents emigrated, let's not forget," he said. The League, xenophobic formation that governs in coalition with the Movement 5 Stars, did not take in answering and reiterating its message: "It is not possible to be compared to the Italians, to whom nobody gave nothing, to the clandestine ones who every day arrive at our country."

The day laborers call their manifestation the "march of the red visors", for the caps of this color that they usually use as the only measure to protect themselves from the hardness of summer while they work. "They are like the ones that the four day laborers had killed and the other four wounded to protect themselves from the sun while they split their backs picking tomatoes for the shameful amount of one euro per quintal," the Union Sindical de Base (USB) which has organized the protests, said in a statement. Day laborers also denounce the degrading treatment they have received even after accidents. The bodies of the victims were left for hours on the asphalt, covered with a white sheet, and the injured were slow to receive medical attention. The public prosecutor of Foggia, Ludovico Vaccaro, denounced that there was no space in the hospitals for the wounded workers. "These poor people have also had problems finding a place in the hospital," he told the Ansa news agency, adding that he had to personally intervene to locate a position available at both the Foggia hospital and other clinics in the province. "I believe that it is necessary to carry out extraordinary interventions to resolve a situation that has become tragic and unsustainable," he continued: "It is not possible to witness such an example, in the shoes of poor people who come here with the hope of being able to improve their living conditions."

Italy has a law against the illegal hiring of labor and the exploitation of agricultural workers. The Democratic Party approved it in 2016 but since then there are doubts about its application. Agriculture is the main economic resource in the areas where this type of exploitation occurs; On the one hand, the complicity of the local population and on the other, the weakness of the controls makes the norm ineffective. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte moved to Foggia on Monday and said that controls will be encouraged and strengthened. In June, the shooting death in Calabria (south of the country) of a 29-year-old Malian trade unionist unleashed the wrath of African day laborers, who had already rebelled in 2010 when the son of a boss of the 'Ndrangheta shot two immigrants in the town of Rosarno. Then unions were formed and the problem became relevant. Matteo Salvini, current interior minister and leader of the League, gave a rally in that same town in March, shortly after the elections, in which mafia personalities were present. "Why is Rosarno known? For being a shanty town and I do not want slaves," he said.