ROME, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Human rights group Amnesty
International condemned what it called "widespread and endemic"
exploitation of migrant workers in Italy on Monday and urged the
government to overhaul its immigration policies.
The investigation found migrant workers in the agriculture
and construction sectors in areas of southern Italy were paid 40
percent less on average than Italians doing the same job and
were often paid below the legal minimum.
In some cases workers were not paid at all or their pay was
Italy has borne the brunt of irregular sea-borne migration
to southern Europe, which has risen with unrest in North Africa
and the Middle East.
Migrants, who say they are attracted by the prospect of a
better life in Europe, often risk the voyage across the
Mediterranean in overcrowded fishing boats. Thousands have died
in shipwrecks, harsh conditions at sea or a lack of food.
The Amnesty report said that stringent Italian immigration
laws, which criminalise irregular entry to the country, made
migrant workers more vulnerable to exploitation because they
cannot complain to authorities for fear of arrest.
"The outcome for migrant workers is often: wages well below
the domestic minimum, arbitrary wage reductions, delays in pay
or no pay at all and long working hours," Amnesty researcher
Francesca Pizzutelli said in a statement.
"While the authorities in any country are entitled to
control immigration, they must not do so at the expense of the
human rights of all people in their territory, including migrant
The report, which noted that racism against migrants was a
problem, focused on "severe" exploitation of workers from
sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Asia in the agricultural
sector in Latina and Caserta in Italy's south.
It recommended that Italian authorities develop a way for
migrant workers to safely lodge complaints against employers.
One Indian migrant, speaking anonymously to Amnesty, said
that he had agreed to work seven days a week for about 3 euros
an hour or 700 euros a month, but that his employer had instead
been paying him just 100 euros a month for the last seven
"I can't go to the police because I don't have documents:
they would take my fingerprints and I would have to leave," he
was quoted as saying in the report.
Of Italy's estimated 5.4 million foreign nationals about
half a million had no valid documentation, the report said.
(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Stephen Powell)