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18-year-old killed in blaze at migrant tent camp

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18-year-old killed in blaze at migrant tent camp
Tents at the San Ferdinando camp in Calabria. Photo: Gianluca Chininea/AFP
11:22 CET+01:00
A young man was killed last night in another fire at the notorious San Ferdinando camp in Calabria.

The 18-year-old died last night after fire broke out at the tent camp in San Ferdinando,which is thought to be sheltering around one thousand non-EU migrants.

The victim, whose body was found this morning, was identified as Souaro Jaiteh, from The Gambia.

"He came to Italy a year ago. His ambition was to study. And now it's gone,” said the victim's brother, who lives in Catania and travelled to the camp in Calabria after hearing the news.

Jaiteh wasn't a resident of the camp, local media reports, but was there to visit friends. He had until recently been staying at the Sprar refugee center in Gioiosa Jonica, and was reportedly waiting for the renewal of his humanitarian residence permit.

Many refugees have been turned out of Sprar centres following the passing of a new ‘security decree', which abolishes humanitarian protection status and stops asylum seekers from accessing the reception centres, designed to combat social exclusion.

The blaze, which destroyed two barracks, is thought to have spread from a campfire lit during the night.

However, friends of the victim told reporters for local media of suspicions that the fire was not an accident.

The fire was brought under control by local firefighters along with camp residents. Carabinieri, police and financial police also arrived on the scene.

The camp is reportedly marked by damage from numerous fires. A huge blaze at the camp in January 2017, the result of an arson attack, killed one woman and injured another.

In June this year a 29-year-old man from Mali living in the camp was shot in the head and killed.

The San Ferdinando camp is notorious for its "inhumane" conditions and has been described as "one of the biggest ghettoes in Italy" by aid group Doctors for Human Rights (Medu)

READ ALSO: Inside the slum that houses southern Italy's migrant workforce

Up to 3,000 labourers – most with valid residence permits for Italy – live in or around the camp at the height of the harvest, working for minimal wages and sleeping without electricity or running water.

Around 75 percent of them are employed without a contract and all are paid depending on what they collect: 50 cents for a crate of oranges, one euro for a crate of mandarins, Medu says.

The region's president, Mario Oliverio, expressed his condolences today for "a young life destroyed” and referred to the tent city as a “death camp.”

“These death camps continue to reap innocent victims, while the closure of the Sprar projects is absurdly sanctioned, and a project such as that in Riace is dismissed – despite being a concrete example of welcoming and civil integration.”

The death of the young man requires a “clear change of direction,” he added. 

“The shantytowns of death must be dismantled. The government must take the initiative to create more adequate solutions, for a welcome worthy of a civilised country.”

But in an area in the grip of the powerful Calabrian Ndrangheta mob – the San Ferdinando municipal council has already been dissolved several times over mafia infiltration – calls for change have so far fallen on deaf ears.

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