The recent violence in Calabria, Southern southern Italy, has placed the plight of the region’s seasonal migrant workers into the international spotlight. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) denounces the ongoing neglect and exploitation of this vulnerable group. Following a recent outburst of violence against seasonal migrant workers in Calabria, sites where thousands of migrants had been living since November are now completely empty. Most have been transferred by Italian authorities to centres for migrants in other parts of southern Italy, with many forced to leave their belongings behind.  “Some people were very reluctant to leave because they had not yet been paid for their work, others were afraid of being detained or deported,” said Alessandra Tramontano, MSF’s medical coordinator. “But they were so scared that they felt they had no choice but to leave.” MSF visited seven migrant workers who were hospitalized after being beaten or shot. “The recent episodes of violence and hostility are an extreme symptom of the chronic neglect seasonal migrant workers are subjected to in Italy,” said Loris de Filippi, MSF operational coordinator. “While they are crucial to the labour force in Italian agriculture, they are easily exploited,” he added. Seasonal migrant workers in southern Italy are subject to extremely dire living conditions. They often live in abandoned houses or factories, exposed to rain and cold weather in winter. The sites have poor sanitation and access to healthcare is limited. “Most health conditions our medical team treats are related to their appalling living and working conditions, such as respiratory infections, osteo-muscular pain or gastroenteritis,” said di Filippi. MSF has provided humanitarian assistance to seasonal migrant workers in different regions of southern Italy (Puglia, Campania, Calabria, Sicilia, Lazio and Basilicata) since 2003. The latest project, in Piana di Gioia Tauro, started in December as migrants gathered for the fruit-picking season. Along with a mobile clinic, an MSF team visited the main sites where migrants lived. Between Dec. 21-23 MSF distributed kits containing blankets, buckets and other essential items to alleviate the suffering of 2,000 migrant workers during the winter season. Since it began working with seasonal migrants in southern Italy, MSF has denounced the appalling living conditions and pushed authorities to take measures to improve the humanitarian situation of migrants. With two reports ("A Season in Hell", 2008 and “The fruits of hypocrisy", 2005), MSF exposed the dramatic living and working conditions of thousands of migrants who work during all seasons of the year in the farms of southern Italy. “Little has changed for the thousands of migrants working in Italian farms since we started in 2003. Year after year our teams go back to the same areas and witness the same horrible conditions, which we try to alleviate by providing medical humanitarian aid. It is about time Italian authorities take measures to improve the conditions of these workers, respect their dignity and improve their access to healthcare,” said de Filippi.

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