Wed, Sep 30, 2009 - Page 6 News List

FEATURE : Illegal migrants slave away in Italy’s tomato fields

FEUDAL SYSTEM Field work means doing backbreaking work for little money, living in squalid slums without running water or power and paying off a middleman

REUTERS , RIGNANO GARGANICO, ITALY

A group of men slaughters a goat in a corner.

After turning a blind eye for years, regional authorities in August set up 60 portable toilets and 20 water tanks to serve an estimated 1,500 immigrants until next month, when most will move further south to the Calabria region for the orange harvest. Cheap accommodation for up to 300 people is also being readied.

But medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which since 2003 has been monitoring the area and helping immigrants get access to basic health services, says more should be done.

“The conditions in which they live and eat are extremely precarious. These are young, strong people who arrive in Italy in good health and fall sick here,” MSF doctor Alvise Benelli said.

Spending hours kneeling or bending in the fields means that many suffer from back and muscle pain. The lack of hygiene causes skin and intestinal diseases. There is also an increasing number of people suffering from depression.

“They left their country and came here hoping to find an El Dorado, but they end up living in conditions that are often worse than what they had at home,” Benelli said.

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