Italy bulldozes migrant shanty town after deadly fires

Published: Updated:

Hundreds of migrants were evicted Wednesday from a make-shift migrant camp in southern Italy which has been the site of several deadly fires, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said.

“As promised... we went from words to actions,” said Salvini, head of the far-right League party, as bulldozers tore through the San Ferdinando shanty town in Calabria under the watch of 600 policemen.

Four migrants have died in the camp in the past year in either arson attacks or accidental fires lit to keep the residents warm, according to the Italian association Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU).

The death in February of Moussa Ba, a 29-year-old from Senegal whose body was found in a caravan after a fire, prompted the government to announce the overcrowded and dirty camp would be razed.

San Ferdinando, which sits on the outskirts of the southern city of Rosarno, was home to over 1,500 people who scramble to get work largely in the area’s orange and olive groves.

Most worked illegally for local farmers for pittance pay.

Some of the migrants left after the government said the camp would be closed. The last 900 or so quit their shacks overnight Tuesday or were moved on early Wednesday.

Salvini had promised to relocate them to reception centers, but several migrants told Italian media that they still did not know where they would be housed. Many feared they would be taken far from the farms where they work.

It is not the first time the camp has been officially dismantled.

MEDU slammed the closure decision “without taking into consideration either the individual rights of the migrant workers nor the long-term commitments made by regional and local institutions and associations to promote social integration”.

Rosarno is notorious for the climate of tension between seasonal workers, security forces and local residents, and has been the scene of repeated clashes.

Doctors Without Borders in 2010 fiercely condemned attitudes towards the migrants, saying conditions in the San Fernando camp and others in Italy were often worse than in refugee camps in Africa.