Fire kills two in Italy migrant farm workers' 'ghetto'

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2017 10:27 AM

ROME (Reuters) - Two people were killed after fire broke out at a camp housing hundreds of migrants who pick fruit and vegetables in the fields of southern Italy, officials said.

A police spokesman said authorities are still gathering information about Thursday night's blaze, which tore through a shantytown known as the "Ghetto" near Foggia, in the Puglia region.

Two burned bodies were recovered from the 5,000 square meter settlement, the fire service said on Twitter.

Authorities had reportedly started clearing the camp on Wednesday, and police in riot gear were stationed near the charred wooden sheds on Friday.

Illegal immigrants, mainly from Africa, have been flocking to the fields of southern Italy for years to scrape a living as seasonal pickers of grapes, olives, tomatoes and oranges.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League, said Italy should fight organized crime and exploitation, and introduce a minimum wage.

Italians also work in harsh conditions in the fields in the area, and the case of an Italian woman who died last year while toiling for a few euros an hour caused outrage.

"Two African immigrants, exploited like slaves in the countryside (like so many Italians!) died last night because of a fire (the seventh!) in the shantytown where they lived," Salvini said in a statement.

(Reporting by Isla Binnie)