Sunday night at the San Ferdinando Camp was one of sadness and anger. The Malians wanted to vent their anxiety. They burned some tires and erected some temporary barricades. Nothing more. However, it was enough to set off the minister of internal affairs, who ordered the camp surrounded with an excessive number of soldiers. There was fear of riots, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Monday was a day of remembrance and struggle. A laborers’ strike and an assembly transformed into a peaceful procession directed to the town hall. The face of Soumaila Sacko was imprinted on many signs that his friends brought during the long, five-kilometer march from the industrial zone to the center of the town. San Calogero, where his murder took place, is 20 km away, an hour’s walk and in another province, Vibo Valentia.
Sacko, along with two friends, had gone to take some sheet metal to the “ex furnace,” an abandoned factory, seized for the presence of toxic material. They needed the sheet to build a shack in the San Ferdinando Camp, for another Malian worker. Indeed, Sacko was a generous person who helped everyone. At the forefront of every protest, he was at the head of the procession for Becky Moses, the Nigerian woman burned alive at the tragic fire a few months ago. In these places, tragedies are now ritual. At regular intervals, there have been deaths from frostbite, malnutrition and arson. Now for shotguns with coarse hunting weapons, those used to kill wild boars. Probably in the hands of the criminal organization ‘Ndrangheta.
Soumalya, 29, was killed in daylight in the Vibo countryside in front of that factory. His body will be returned to Bamako in the coming days. A 5-year-old girl and his 30-year-old partner are waiting for the body. “It could have been a massacre and only by chance did Madiheri Drame and Madoufoune Fofana not lose their lives,” says Giuseppe Tiano, member of the anti-racist movement in the area. “And don’t come and tell us, as someone has tried to do, that it was a theft, because it was an abandoned place. It was a premeditated and xenophobic ambush.” Investigators did not make a hypothesis, but the rumors suggest organized crime. Vibo’s magistrate, Bruno Giordano, confirmed: “We had received several reports in the area. More than one person was disturbed by the presence of migrants.”
Less than a year ago, the Carabinieri arrested four young men for a series of attacks against migrants who, in the evening, went hunting for blacks. They climbed into a Fiat Punto and began driving around with clubs under the seats. This time the vehicle involved was an Alfetta. There were no clubs but a rifle.
“He wasn’t a terrorist, he wasn’t a criminal, he had no weapons and they shot him in the head like an animal,” says Idris, a 40-year-old Ivorian friend of the victim.
The migrants have legal documents but live in slave-like conditions. As farm laborers, they have the right to housing, according to their national contract of employment. But in fact, most are forced to live in the tent city, which was rebuilt after the first one was destroyed in a fire.
“These workers should be given empty houses, but the megacamps are proliferating instead,” said Maria Francesca D’Agostino, professor at Unical and an expert on migration. “The mayor has warned us that in the coming months the tent camps will be broken up. But what will happen to these workers when they return to orange harvesting in the autumn? The institutions proceed in a disorganized manner. Everything is confused. Nothing has changed since Becky’s death. There is also a political responsibility and not only of the minister of internal affairs.”
It’s the region’s responsibility to implement inclusion policies. Instead they’ve done nothing. They have EU funds to invest in housing, but they prefer to let the migrants live in the tents. Sacko was living in the new camp, the “temporary” solution, waiting to go in a proper and respectable house.
The procession is not impressive because it is not high season. The perennial migration of farm laborers in the southern countryside has now shifted to the Foggia and Agro-Noce regions. “In Puglia, 2,000 workers have crossed their arms in honor of Soumaila. The strike succeeded,” said Aboubakar Soumaulo, the leader of the laborers. The rage is against journalists and institutional bodies who described the case as simple “metal robbery.” As if he had deserved it.
“Who touches one, touches everyone,” they cried at the march. “Never slaves again.” Some brought a bouquet of red flowers, others a white cloth in sign of mourning. They were all young men, under 40, some wearing soccer T-shirts, a melting pot that expresses anguish and despair.
“These workers are put in inhuman conditions, against the law, on starvation wages. The institutions protect this system,” said Guido Lutrario of Italy’s USB trade union, which helped organize the march. “These people are not illegal but rather victims of illegality.”
At the end, in the early afternoon, the procession finished and the migrants returned to the camp. “The good times are over, except for Minister Salvini,” one said as he left.