Rosarno – a perpetual state of emergency

Rome (NEV), 19th October 2020 – Quarantine in a shanty town. It’s happening in the container camps and tent cities of San Ferdinando.

“Covid,” states Francesco Piobbichione of the team at Mediterranean Hope, the migrant and refugee programme of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), who has worked in Piana di Gioia Tauro for over a year “is shining a spotlight on the fundamental contradictions in these places, which we have long spoken out against.  These people – not “migrants” because they are “farm labourers” and it’s thanks to their work that oranges reach our tables – have no protection.”

In recent weeks MH has been doing mediation work, providing health stations and information in the camps.  Camps which are likely to play host to ever more people, with the citrus fruit harvest just around the corner.

“Emergency income needs to be guaranteed for those who have to undertake quarantine: they are losing days of work, they cannot send money to their families, they have no unemployment benefits of any kind and this creates a tense atmosphere.  We need to provide answers and solutions for these people, “parked” in insalubrious places, to whom we provide only meals,” continues Piobbichi. 

“From the point of view of precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, it is evident that, in the camps, there is not the bare minimum, far less sufficient conditions; it is simply impossible to maintain proper physical distancing.  Yet again, we are asking for ‘shanty towns to be dismantled’.   We have asked for emergency measures, for buildings which can be used at least for now to accommodate farmworkers, but nothing has been forthcoming.  Employers also need to be involved in a comprehensive plan to offer dignity in terms of living conditions for these people,” adds Piobbichi.

This morning further tensions were reported and stones were thrown at police in San Ferdinando. According to press agencies, around twenty migrants from a tent city which has been declared a “red zone” and who were therefore unable to leave the area threw railings and gates, and then threw stones and other objects at police officers lined up in riot gear.  A similar incident also took place last Saturday: farmworkers are asking to be allowed out of the shanty towns to go and work in the fields.