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Africans Working in Sicily's Olive Fields Live in Grim Conditions, Report Says

© AP Photo / Maria Thanh DaoOlives are pictured during the harvest in the village Vallelunga, in the Island of Sicily, Italy, on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010.
Olives are pictured during the harvest in the village Vallelunga, in the Island of Sicily, Italy, on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010. - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.11.2022
In 2020, the UN published a report exposing the vulnerability of immigrants working in the "the sophisticated Italian food system", who were exploited and "left in limbo" with no documents. According to evidence, not much has changed.
African immigrants who harvest olives in Sicily, Italy live with no access to running water, proper sewage or electricity, a British media outlet reported after a visit to an immigrant "ghetto" near the town of Campobello di Mazara.
The workers' may be paid as little as $2 an hour because they have no legal status, and have become sucked into the gang-master system known as "caporalato", which means that the migrants do not work directly for the farmers. Every year during the harvest which lasts from September to November, the migrant camp is filled with more than 1,000 people without official papers, most of whom reportedly come from Gambia, Senegal and Tunisia.
The life in the camp is highly insecure with reports of cases of drug dealing and sex work. In 2021, a fire destroyed much of the camp, killing a young immigrant.
In October, a protest march was organized by African immigrants and Italian activists to commemorate the first anniversary of the fire and call for better conditions for those living in camps.
Issa, a Gambian immigrant who participated in the protest, commented on another tragic case. In 2021, a 27-year-old Malian farm worker called Camara Fantamadi, died after picking tomatoes during extremely hot weather in Puglia.

"However hot it is, when you go to Puglia you will see Africans working on farms," Issa said, adding that in accordance with the gang-masters' rules, "you have to wake up and go to work" even when the temperature reaches 40C.

Recently, Sicily registered a European hot weather record of 48C. The mediterranean island at the southern tip of Italy is right in the epicenter of Europe's heatwaves caused by the climate change.
The "caporalato" system was made illegal by the Italian government in 2011. In 2016, relying on gang-masters' services became punishable by imprisonment. However, undocumented migrants remain unprotected by the law.
According to the UN, between 450,000 and 500,000 irregular migrants are working in Italy's agricultural sector.
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