Tens of thousands of Chinese work in textile factories in Prato, Tuscany, Italy – sometimes under catastrophic conditions. Seven workers were killed two years ago. Pope Francis was now in the city – and urged decent work.
Pope Francis has denounced the exploitation of textile workers in the Italian industrial city of Prato. In a speech in front of the cathedral, he remembered the seven Chinese workers who had died in a factory fire in Prato in December 2013. "It is a tragedy of exploitation and inhuman living conditions, and that is not a worthy job," said the Pope.
The city of Prato, around 25 kilometers northwest of Florence, is a center of the Italian textile industry and has a very high proportion of migrants. An estimated 35,000 of the 190,000 inhabitants come from China. Most of them work in the textile industry.
Rethinking after a fatal fire
Two years ago, Prato hit the headlines after the fire in a Chinese textile factory. Seven workers who stayed in the building died. The disaster made the grievances in the textile industry obvious, where Chinese migrant workers produce clothes for the European market and often sleep next to the sewing machines. So you can save expensive rents and work even more.
Because the time pressure in the textile industry is enormous, says the small Chinese entrepreneur Wang Li Ping: "The customers come from France, Germany or Holland. They come in a large truck, place their order, drive on to Naples – and when they come back, they have to the goods will be ready. If you are not quick, you will lose the job. "
More opportunities than risks
A lot has happened since the fire two years ago. The trade unions try to get in contact with workers and the citizens of Prato are increasingly taking care of the immigrants from the Far East, who are often second generation living in Prato. Vice-Mayor Simone Faggi sees more opportunities than risks in the strong Chinese community: "The Chinese citizens open a gate to the world for us. The city just has to seize this opportunity."