Labor exploitation, denial of documents, inhumane living conditions, sliding towards farm jobs like harvesting, blaming of the victims. These are just some of the stories we receive about the working and living conditions of the laborers exploited in agriculture.
Oltre il ghetto is an occasion to collect the stories of rebound and emancipation witnessed by the organizations in Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Apulia and Sicily who fight on the field every day to free exploited laborers from the stranglehold of illegal hirers and mafias.
The following are the 20 stories selected by the technical staff of the competition, among those nominated by the various organizations involved in the fight against illegal hiring. They are the most representative projects of emancipation and liberation from labor exploitation.
Eric Kodom arrived in Italy from Ghana in 2007. Soon he ended up into illegal, unregulated labor in the fields, and he developed a strong alcohol addiction. Due to an accident, he lost the use of an eye almost completely. But thanks to the combined work of several local services, Eric managed to emancipate himself and to get treated. Today, he works in the field of social agriculture in Apulia.
In Italy since 2016, Jennifer Monday experienced exploitation. Soon she ended up on the Runway of Borgo Mezzanone, where she got pregnant. And that’s when her escape from the ghetto began. In the SIPROIMI in Molfetta, Jennifer carried on her pregnancy and attended catering training courses, a sector where she hoped she would find a job so she could raise her daughter.
Arrived in Italy in 2007, Papa Latyr Faye, called Hervé, is a cultural mediator. His activity revolves around the Association “Ghetto Out Casa Sankara”, of which he is a founding member and President. It’s an entity committed to the fight against illegal hiring and for the fundamental rights of the foreign laborers who work in the area of Capitanata.
Babacar has been in Italy since 2000, and for long years he broke his back in the fields, literally: he ended up undergoing surgery, and now he has some bolts in his back. In spite of this, Babacar kept working under illegal hirers. In 2018, he met the Idorenin association, which helped him obtain the residence permit, thanks to which he has got a regular employment contract.
After being exploited in Borgo Mezzanone, Youssif Bamba, who arrived in Italy with the dream of becoming a doctor, did everything in his power to avoid working under illegal hirers again: IT specialist, English teacher and coach of the Real Mezzanone, a team composed of immigrants and Italians. Today he is a cultural mediator, radio technician for “Radio Ghetto” and president of the Association for Immigrants and for Integration and Social Motivation.
Amina arrived from Nigeria on the promise of a job, after falling victim of human trafficking. On her body, she bears the marks of the abuses she suffered. But, also in Italy, she ended up in slavery and prostitution. From Northern Italy, she moved to Basilicata, in the ghetto of La Felandina. IN 2019, together with Cestrim, her path of emancipation began.
Born in Kenya, Duncan arrived in Italy thanks to a scholarship that allowed him to graduate in Gastronomic Sciences at Bra, in the province of Cuneo. Thanks to his degree he managed to find a job at the cooperative Valdibella as a food technologist assistant. His dream: starting a food company in Kenya.
In Italy since 2016, Mbaye ended up in the ghetto of Borgo Mezzanone. In 2020, a fire destroyed his shack, but thanks to Orchestra dei braccianti (a project from “Terra Onlus!”), of which he had been a member for two years, Mbaye found a job and a house. With the Social Cooperative “Pietra di Scarto”, now he grows tomatoes on lands confiscated to the mafia.
The project “Della Terra Contadinanza Necessaria” (“Belonging to the land, necessary peasantry”) was born in the plain of Gioia Tauro-Rosarno for an agriculture holding together land, work and dignity. It’s a community that fights on the territory and develops projects to release farm laborers and native smallholder farmers from the stranglehold of the large-scale distribution.
Coming from Nigeria after crossing the desert and the Mediterranean and witnessing violence in Libya, Presca was persecuted by her tormentors even from a distance while in Italy. In 2019, she ended up in a Sprar center in Candela, in the province of Foggia, and in 2020 she was contacted by the NoCap Net. That was the path to her emancipation.
Arrived in Italy from the Ivory Coast, Mamadou worked as a seasonal farm laborer. After years of exploitation in the tobacco sector, he decided to denounce his condition and to start a path that would take him out of the ghetto of Castel Volturno. Thanks to his Degree in Foreign Languages he became a linguistic-cultural mediator first, then a reception operator at the SPRAR of Caserta.
Emmanuel arrived in Italy from Libya. In his home country, he was the victim of an ambush: he was shot in the back and now he has a limp due to the damaged sciatic nerve. His disability is what saved him from illegal hirers. After several vicissitudes, he ended up in the Sprar centre in Rionero, where he accepted to work in agriculture for the Ripensarci cooperative, with a regular work contract.
In Italy since 2007, for three years Ibra was a rider in Milan, until he was contacted by a friend, a Senegalese like him, who suggested he go to work in the fields of Capitanata, in Apulia. His “friend” then turned out to be a “black chief”. After two very hard years, there was the breakthrough: thanks to a group of associations, he was trained as a farmer. Today, Ibra is happy.
Cheick is an asylum seeker arrived in Italy in 2017. His procedure was stayed several times; his dream is to bring his wife and his two children to Italy, sooner or later. In his first months in Lavello, he experienced exploitation under a “black chief”. He has an annoying pathology that has forced him to three surgeries to remove a patina that clouds his vision. Today Cheick is still working in the fields, but as a free man.
Khady, a Caritas Italiana operator, tells the story of the attack suffered by Kemo, a Gambian who was hit by a hail of stones while he was working in the fields of Capitanata. After meeting Khady, thanks to Caritas Italiana, Kemo could study Italian and he has found a job in a food processing plant in Foggia.