Italy: NGO MEDU denounces harsh conditions for laborers in Gioia Tauro

Rome: Medici per i Diritti Umani (Doctors for Human Rights – MEDU), an Italian NGO, has denounced the deplorable conditions of laborers from sub-Saharan West Africa in Rosarno, San Ferdinando and Taurianova (municipality of Reggio Calabria), where the NGO provides assistance.

The working and living conditions of laborers on the Gioia Tauro Plain in Calabria, southern Italy, are dire, despite the presence of expensive but unused housing structures, states a complaint filed by Medici per i Diritti Umani (MEDU).

MEDU has been operating in this area for 10 consecutive years, offering laborers medical assistance and legal support. The MEDU team, through its mobile clinic, reaches approximately 1,500 foreign farm laborers present in abandoned farmhouses, rundown ministerial tents, and old containers across the municipalities of Rosarno, San Ferdinando and Taurianova.

“The settlement’s population is comprised of young men with an average age of 35 who come from countries in sub-Saharan West Africa, in particular Mali, The Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast.” Despite residing in Italy for an extended period, with 88% living there for over three years, they continue to face exclusion, exploitation, and job insecurity, MEDU points out.

“The terrible conditions described in previous years, starting in 2013 when MEDU reached the plain of Gioia Tauro for the first time, now appear even more grotesque.”

The note continues, pointing out the paradox of investing millions in housing that remains unopened, contrasting with the inhumane living conditions in informal settlements, unopened container camps, and restructured but uninhabited buildings seized from the mafia.

According to MEDU, €3 million from the EU intended for six buildings with 36 apartments in Rosarno, and €2 million from the Ministry of Interior for a “Village of Solidarity” on confiscated mafia land, remain unused. Another €650,000 were invested for the realization of a Multifunctional Center in Contrada Donna Livia, in the municipality of Taurianova, which was never activated.

Despite this, MEDU acknowledges positive initiatives by civil society, citing the “Dambe So” hostel for laborers opened in San Fernando by the Mediterranean Hope project of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy (FCEI).

Expressing concern over the persistent issues, MEDU describes the situation as a chronic disease affecting the socio-economic fabric of the Gioia Tauro plain. “This keeps happening as the seasons do,” the statement adds, underscoring that “these dramatic living conditions provide the context for exhausting and endless working days, despite a slight improvement in the daily wages.”

The appeal calls for an urgent resolution to eliminate bureaucratic obstacles that impede the opening of the homes destined for farm laborers and to invest in initiatives like “Dambe So” to bridge the gap between work and housing while guaranteeing social and economic sustainability

MEDU, in collaboration with its partner “Campagne Aperte” (Open Countryside), demands swift action to address these issues.