Italy: Chinese Nationals Arrested for Using Illegal Migrant Slave Labour

An employee of the government's factory "Blakit" prepare to pack medical masks in the town
AP Photo/Sergei Grits

Italian authorities have arrested thirteen Chinese nationals who they say were using illegal migrants in slave-like conditions for a business making medical masks.

The Chinese “entrepreneurs” were taken into custody by the Guardia di Finanza in the city of Prato in Tuscany. Police also seized hundreds of thousands of medical masks which were being sold to Tuscan government authorities and handed out free to the public.

At least 90 workers making the masks were found to not have work permits or residency permits and many of the workers in one factory were forced by a Chinese man to work shifts of up to 16 hours a day with no days off and given just ten to fifteen minutes for breaks in which to eat, L’Arno reports.

According to investigations, the workspaces had also been set up as accommodation for the migrants working in them, with one man forced to sleep in one of the toilets of the worksite.

As part of the investigation, 28 business in the textile district of Prato, all manged by Chinese nationals, were searched along with the residences of some employees.

ESTAR, the Tuscany region’s health service body, had ordered 6.7 million medical masks and the main supplier was forced to use contractors who in turn employed the Chinese-run businesses.

Enrico Rossi, president of the Tuscany region, praised the work of investigators and said: “Now, based on the results of the investigation, the Region will evaluate whether to take legal action.”

Maurizio Marchetti, regional head of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, reacted differently, slamming the leftist coalition government: “It makes sense that there has been no scruple about assigning a millionaire contract to that parallel Chinese district and to the clandestine production network that the Region would have the task of contrasting as a pocket of illegality that undermines our textile district.”

Illegal migrant labourers have become a major issue in Italy in recent weeks as the leftist government has pushed for a temporary amnesty for the estimated hundreds of thousands of illegals living in the country.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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