Cain Burdeau, Courthouse News, September 16, 2019
People here were unwilling to speak with a Courthouse News reporter and said they were disillusioned with the media because previous news reports had done little to help them. The immigrants here are eager to get Italian residency, find regular work and decent housing.
However, one man, a 29-year-old from Ghana called Musah, agreed to talk. He declined to give his last name and to be photographed.
“This is Africa,” Musah said, speaking in English. “We did not come here to live in Africa. Africa is hell.”
He said he has been living in the shanty town for months, working as a field hand and riding a bicycle to his work like so many others do here.
In early January, he said he was riding his bicycle when he was struck by a vehicle. He said he suffered serious injuries and was bedridden for three months.
He complained that the living conditions in the shanty town were atrocious. But he said people had few other options.
“Lots of people do not have documents. Where can we go?” he said, adding that he had no passport and no permit to live in Italy.
“They should help us get documents, so that we can live somewhere better,” he said. “When I have documents, the government can benefit from me, and I can benefit from it. I can pay taxes.”
He said he has a wife and children in Ghana and he hopes to be able to bring them to Italy one day. In Ghana, he said he can make about $9 a day whereas he makes about $28 a day in Italy.
In recent months, Italian authorities have demolished about 60 structures in a bid to remove the shanty town, one of the largest in Italy.
“They want to destroy everything here,” he said.
He said he lived with eight other people in a caravan that was provided to the shanty town by local authorities. To pass the time, they play cards and checkers, cook and eat together, he said.
He added though that the shanty town can be dangerous due to drunken behavior and criminality.
Alessandro Verona of INTERSOS, a non-governmental group that regularly visits the shanty town to provide medical help, said in an email that demolishing places where the immigrants live “just worsens conditions that are already severe.”
He said it was critical for the shanty town’s inhabitants to get the documents they need to stay in Italy and for Italy to combat exploitation by employers, which he said has been a persistent problem for African workers.