Overcrowded reception centres and informal settlements make migrants vulnerable to COVID-19
Migrants living in reception centres in Bologna, Italy have written an open letter to local and regional authorities calling for improvements in living conditions to reduce the chance of transmission of COVID-19. The COVID-19 health emergency underscores the precarious living conditions of migrants, who are essential to the Italian economy.
The letter states, “Many of us work side by side, day and night, at the Interporto, where in some warehouses the workload has doubled to keep pace with the growing demand provoked by the epidemic panic. When we have to rest, we go back to the crowded reception centres. In via Mattei, more than 200 of us live and sleep in dorms with 5 to 10 persons each, with beds very close, one on top of the other.”
Supported by the migrant rights organisation Coordinamento Migranti, the migrants in Bologna cite the overcrowding of reception centres as a risk for contagion. Besides those living in overcrowded reception centres, people living in informal settlements, both in rural areas and big cities, are at risk. More than ever, associations and authorities must take action to prevent transmission of the virus. For example, the humanitarian organisation Intersos has increased its precautionary interventions in rural areas of Puglia.
Around 370,000 foreign workers are employed in the agricultural sector in Italy, according to Coldiretti, the main organisation representing agricultural entrepreneurs. The spread of COVID-19 and temporary border closures are reducing the number of seasonal workers, putting this vital economic sector at risk. Coldiretti is highly concerned about the situation and asks for students and pensioners to step in.