Two Malian refugees die in fire at farm workers' camp in Italy


Two refugees from Mali have died after a fire broke out at a camp for

farm workers in the southern Italian region of Puglia, two days after

it had been ordered to be cleared.

Investigators said they had not ruled out arson as a possible cause of

the blaze, which consumed sections of a shantytown known as the "Gran

Ghetto", usually home to about 350 people. The two victims were

identified as Mamadou Konate, 33, and Nouhou Doumbia, 36.

The fire is believed to have started at about 1am on Friday and

quickly engulfed part of the 5,000-sq-metre camp, in which workers

live in makeshift huts made of cardboard and plastic tarps.

The Italian news agency quoted a firefighter as saying arson had not

been excluded. Other investigators said they suspected the blaze could

have been started by a faulty portable stove, which may have been left

on as a source of heat.

Two other fires have broken out in the camp in recent years.

Authorities had ordered the clearing of the area on Wednesday but 100

workers remained in place, fearful that leaving would mean they would

lose their jobs.

The camp is home to migrant farm workers who often work under

slave-like conditions and are controlled by local organised crime

groups.

According to media reports, police and firefighters were at the scene

when the fire broke out, but it spread so quickly that the two victims

had too little time to escape the flames. The body of one of the men

was reportedly found charred and lying on a cot.

The exploitation of farm workers, usually poor refugees from Africa ,

has been a problem in Italy for decades. Michele Emiliano, the

president of Puglia, called the camp a "disgrace, which has grown out

of years of indifference".

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