UN experts calls upon Italy to protect evicted migrant workers from exploitation

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African farm workers in an informal dwelling in San Ferdinando, Reggio Calabria. The UN Special Rapporteur said it was a serious indictment that workers who generate billions of euros in agricultural exports are forced to live in shantytowns and work up to 14 hours a day / Photo: Screenshot/ La7 Attualità

GENEVA, MARCH 14 – Italy must act urgently to protect hundreds of migrant workers evicted from an informal settlement in Calabria, say UN human rights experts in Geneva addressing the case of the informal settlement in San Ferdinando, which housed about 2,000 people and was cleared by the authorities between 6 and 8 March.

“There is no doubt that conditions did not conform to human rights standards, and were abysmal and completely unsustainable, but we are deeply concerned about the absence of adequate alternative options for the people who were living in the informal settlement,” the experts said adding that the authorities “failed to explore all alternative options to avoid the evictions, as required under international human rights law”.

The forced eviction has further increased the pressure on the migrant women and men, who are mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, and are now facing even greater difficulties, the experts said, expressing particular concern about the fate of up to 200 migrant women who lived at the informal settlement before the eviction, “as it is not clear what has happened to them.”

Resettling migrant workers in tents is not an adequate, sustainable solution. Evictions that leave people homeless or in grossly inadequate housing conditions are considered forced evictions under international human rights law and are a gross violation of human rights. Informal settlements should preferably be upgraded in situ, but where this is not possible, residents should be moved to adequate alternative housing as close as possible to where they lived before, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing said.

The UN experts urged the Government of Italy to ensure the protection of all migrants, regardless of their status, as well as their access to decent housing, sanitation and healthcare. “Deliberately depriving them of their livelihoods and basic dignity leaves them at considerably greater risk of falling prey to criminals seeking to exploit them,” the UN experts said.

One of the UN experts, Urmila Bhoola, visited Italy in October 2018 to assess the situation of migrants facing work exploitation in local agriculture. She saw for herself the San Ferdinando informal settlement as well as the newer tent city next to it, and will present the findings of her visit to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2019. (@OnuItalia)