Local authorities believe the situation in the migrant tent city on the Gioia Tauro plain in Calabria, southern Italy, is becoming increasingly dangerous. The facility, which has a maximum capacity of 300 people, currently hosts some 350 African migrants, many of whom are farm workers.
The prefect of the Calabria region, Massimo Mariani, announced on Wednesday January 26 that “the city of tents will be dismantled”. He also said there are plans to provide better housing for migrants living in the makeshift San Ferdinando settlement.
This announcement follows a series of consultations that Mariani held with the regional government of Calabria and the municipalities of San Ferdinando and Gioia Tauro, as well as local migrant aid groups.
“We are waiting for the Region of Calabria to make funds available to start a reception and residence project, using some confiscated property,” said Mariani. “The basic idea remains that of offering migrants residence conditions that guarantee their dignity.”
Governor of Calabria promises funding
Calabria regional governor Roberto Occhiuto responded quickly to Mariani’s appeal, promising funds would be made available.
“Mariani was right to announce the imminent dismantling of the tent city,” Occhiuto said. “It is not acceptable that in 2022 a place can still exist where legality, individual dignity and the possibility of normal civil coexistence cannot be ensured. The Region of Calabria is ready to do its part. We will work to find the necessary resources for the rehabilitation of the area. And from next week, we will organize a permanent round table with all the institutions concerned in order to solve the problem.
San Ferdinando Mayor Andrea Tripodi has repeatedly criticized regional and central governments for not doing enough to help his city with the camp. “Pope Francis is the only one I haven’t written to, and maybe if I had, he – who cares so much about the suffering of migrants – would also have come here to see such a marginalized play. and hurt of humanity,” he said recently.
The story of a migrant: “There is no work here”
Hundreds of people have stayed in the tent city over the past few months while working in nearby orchards during the citrus harvest. Many of these mostly African farm workers – who are often exploited by their employers because they lack legal papers – are now moving to Puglia or Campania in search of other farming jobs. .
One of the migrants considering leaving the camp is Draman, 39, from Mali: “In a few days, I will leave; there is no work here, or it is already done. He arrived in Italy in 2008 after experiencing the excruciating difficulty of Libya and the stormy seas of the Strait of Sicily.
Bad life conditions
Those who remain in the tent city still live in chaos due to continued overcrowding.
In parts of the tent city, migrants use huge tin cans under the sun, when it is off, to heat water for showers. This way of heating water has actually become a small business in the camp, with buckets of heated water selling for 50 cents.
The camp is very much like a small village, with shops — selling things like shoes, clothes, and handicrafts. Around what remains of the tent city fence, the accumulated trash that hasn’t been picked up in months gives off a foul smell.
On New Years Eve a fire broke out at the tented camp, several huts were destroyed but luckily no one was seriously injured.
In 2019, authorities dismantled a large camp at the same location – where three migrants had previously died in fires. Shortly after, the current camp appeared in the same place.