At least 10,000 migrant farm workers in Italy live in "informal settlements" where they lack rights and are exploited, according to a new report by the National Association of Italian Ministries (ANCI).
Many of these settlements have been around for years and lack basic services, said the report.
The report was compiled as part of a three-year plan to combat worker exploitation and gang-mastering in Italy's agro-food sector and was based on a 'census' of settlements conducted between October 2021 and January 2022.
Its authors described the report as an ‘unprecedented’ investigation in which half of Italy’s municipalities filled in a questionnaire.
They said 38 local authorities reported a total of 150 informal or unauthorised settlements. These came in many forms, including shanty towns made up of huts, tents and caravans, and occupied or squatted buildings.
"This report is not the simple mapping of how migrants live and work in our fields, but illustrates more broadly the way we recognise or deny dignity to those lives and that work in our territories today,” wrote Italian labour and social policies minister, Andrea Orlando, and the president of ANCI, Antonio Decaro, in the report’s preface.
"For too long we have borne the weight of places that deny our constituent principles and the respect due to every human being," they added.
"We have, etymologically, tolerated them. We can't and no longer want to support that weight. Let's restore to ‘home’ and ‘work’ the meaning that they should have everywhere.”
Italy is considered one of the entry points for many asylum-seekers and refugees coming to Europe, as a result of its strategic and central position in the Mediterranean.
Approximately 5.1 million immigrants reside in the country as of 2021, making up 8.7 per cent of the national population.