Mafia involved in African migrant clash


THE ‘NDRANGHETA, the Calabrian Mafia, is believed to have played a pivotal role in three days of conflict between local residents and African migrant workers in the small Cababrian town of Rosarno.

Over the weekend, police bused 1,300 Africans, mainly seasonal agricultural workers, out of the town in order to end three days of tension, road blocks and drive-by shootings which were directed at the Africans.

In an interview with daily L’Avvenire, senior public prosecutor Alberto Cisterna of the National Anti-Mafia Squad yesterday said: “There’s no doubt but that men from the ‘Ndrangheta shot at the immigrants, just to remind everyone that they control the territory.”

The unrest in Rosarno began last Thursday when two of the Africans, who came mainly from Burkino Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and Sudan, were fired on and injured by shots from an air rifle in an unexplained shooting.

Reports of the shootings prompted the enraged migrants to take to the streets of Rosarno.

They staged a violent protest during which they overturned and set fire to a number of cars and rubbish bins, damaged private property and eventually clashed with police in riots which left 66 injured.

By way of response, enraged locals armed with iron bars and heavy sticks in turn set up impromptu road blocks in the town.

In a heavily charged atmosphere, three other Africans were shot and injured while others were chased and beaten.

Police also reported that one Rosarno resident had been questioned after trying to run over a farm worker with an earth mover, while another man allegedly tried to run down an immigrant with his car.

The African migrants constitute a semi-nomadic workforce who move from tomato harvesting in Campania to the wine harvest in Sicily, then on to olive picking in Puglia before moving to Calabria for the orange crop in the late autumn.

Work conditions in Calabria are often wretched, with migrants paid an average of €2 an hour for a working day that can stretch to 15 or 16 hours.

Furthermore, the migrants in Rosarno, as in many other parts of Italy, find makeshift accommodation in abandoned buildings, living in often squalid and insanitary conditions.

Public Prosecutor Cisterna blames the ‘Ndrangheta for the violent local response to the migrant workers, saying: “When the local people felt threatened, they turned to the Mafiosi who then had to step in so as not to lose face.

“That way they sent out a little ‘platoon’ of young killers . . . just to frighten the Africans.”

Ironically, many if not all of the workers intimidated by the ‘Ndrangheta may well have been originally “hired” by the ‘Ndrangheta, which controls much Calabrian fruit farming.

Furthermore, Rosarno is reputedly a stronghold of the ‘Ndrangheta, recognised as Italy’s most powerful criminal organisation.

Currently the town is administered by a government-appointed prefect, given that the local ruling council was dissolved in December 2008 after it was adjudged to have become totally Mafia-infiltrated.

During his Sunday Angelus yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI appeared to make reference to the Rosarno incident when he said that violence was never the solution, adding: “Every migrant is a human being, with a different culture, religion and history but he/she is still someone who merits respect and who has rights and responsibilities.”