Yet again this year, thousands of migrant workers have returned to Calabria's Piana di Gioia Tauro to harvest this season's citrus fruits. Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has made an emergency intervention in this area with humanitarian aid relief supplies.
In the areas of Rosarno, San Ferdinando and Rizziconi, MSF has found at least 1,500 migrant workers in extremely hazardous conditions: in the first two areas, the workers are living in abandoned factories. In San Ferdinando, in particular, around 700 people have built makeshift housing inside a disused paper mill.
Exploited for labor, scarce access to healthcare, completely inadequate lodging and episodes of violence characterize the everyday reality of the migrant workers in these areas. The complete lack of basic hygienic facilities is appalling. In response, MSF has distributed over 1,500 hygienic kits containing a sleeping bag, soap, dental floss, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Migrant workers traveling to look for seasonal agricultural work does not happen solely in Calabria - in the south of Italy, every year thousands of people move from region to region looking for temporary work. This phenomenon happens at the same time of year every year and could and should be well-prepared. MSF has already spoken out against the deplorable living and working conditions of these migrant workers in a 2005 report entitled "Fruits of Hypocrisy" and in 2008 with "A Season in Hell."
This year, MSF has pushed for the local authorities, both in Puglia and Calabria regions, to prepare emergency measures so as to ensure the basic needs of these migrant workers are met. Even with essential needs met, the living conditions of these workers remain precarious with makeshift housing, without any basic services to the point that MSf had to intervene.
"The bare minimum one would expect from a country like Italy," said Antonio Virgilio, MSF Head of Mission Calabria, "is the respect of the basic international standards for reception. According to the United Nations, in a displacement camp there must be at least one toilet for every 20 people. Not even this basic standard is being met in the places we've seen in Calabria for a population that is fundamental for the local agricultural economies.
"Without protection from the cold and living and cooking in tightly enclosed spaces will considerably add to an insurgence of respiratory diseases," said Cristina Falconi, MSF Project Coordinator in Calabria. "In addition the difficult living and working conditions bring about gastroenteritis and musculoskeletal problems. We are finding ourselves in the midst of people who arrive healthy and become sick shortly thereafter."
Considering the critical conditions of the migrant workers in Piana di Gioia Tauro, MSF again asks that the President of the Calabrian region and the local authorities carry out immediately emergency measures, such as installing toilets, showers, and drinking water services to guarantee the basic needs of these migrant workers are met. MSF also asks the local health authorities to strengthen the health services for the migrant workers.
MSF again asks that the President of the Calabrian region and the local authorities carry out immediately emergency measures, such as installing toilets, showers, and drinking water services to guarantee the basic needs of these migrant workers are met. MSF also asks the local health authorities to strengthen the health services for the migrant workers.