Originally from Senegal and Guinea, the young migrants had previously done volunteer humanitarian work in Turin and offered to help after the region was hit by the double whammy of multiple earthquakes and the deadly avalanche which engulfed the Hotel Rigopiano on Wednesday.
“They asked if they could give a hand,” said a Red Cross spokesperson. “They've been volunteering with the Red Cross for the last two years and have specialized in logistics.
“We are setting up a tent for the rescue teams at the avalanche site, where rescuers can rest and recuperate. The boys will be working in the tent in shifts, giving a hand to the cook and helping out wherever needed. Two of the group are already up there.”
Among the group being briefed Saturday was baby-faced Barry Misbaou, 20, from Guinea.
“The situation is difficult, it's not easy for us because it's the first time we'll have done anything like this,” he told AFPTV. “We're finding it difficult because we're not used to the cold and we're foreigners, but this is life and we have to do what we can because it's good to help people, especially victims.
“We're here now to go and work at the hotel but we don't know what will happen.”
Most of the migrants seeking asylum in Italy arrive from North Africa after perilous overland journeys and even more dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean, which almost invariably end with their overcrowded boats having
to be rescued by the Italian coastguard.
They are barred from taking paid work at the beginning of Italy's asylum application procedure and jobs are thin on the ground afterwards. This situation has led many to seek opportunities to volunteer with some wanting to return the favour after benefiting from the support of humanitarian organisations.
Others say they want to give something back to Italy in the face of complaints from far-right politicians that they drain resources from native Italians, or simply to keep themselves busy while their status is resolved.