Venice, June 4, 2018 –  Soumaila Sacko was a black man with a strong
sense of justice who could not remain silent and watch fellow immigrants treated like
slaves after they were hired out by mafias in Italy’s South, a region where organized
crime rather than the government still run local affairs.
                   The man from Mali was indignant that batches of as many as fifty refugee migrant
workers, known colloquially as ‘packets,’ would be sent to landowners to harvest crops like
tomatoes. Each worker is paid a few miserable euros a day by the land owner while the mafia
boss pockets much more per worker in his ‘package.’
Tropea, Calabria, where Sacko joined ‘a package’ the workers lived in a
Tentopolis, a tent-city. Its abominable living and sanitary conditions are common. The 29-year
old immigrant intended to improve these as well as the treatment and the salaries of his fellow
migrant workers.
                  So he co-founded a trade union to battle against this modern slave trade.
Sacko was shot dead just a day before Italy’s new strongman, Interior
Minister Matteo Salvini, visited the South. Salvini, a former Northern League
separatist and outspoken xenophobe successfully campaigned in general elections
with coarse anti-immigration and anti-European Union slogans.
                  The Minister simply ignored Sacko’s murder during his visit.
                  Instead he pledged to cancel the five billion euro in funds destined for new arrivals
of refugees. The day before he took over the powerful Interior Ministry Salvini posted a twitter
photo showing a visibly deranged African plucking a dead dove. The caption read: ‘Go home.’
Next he labelled all those who helped to save refugees from the Mediterranean (where
thousands have drowned) as ‘Aides to slave traders” blatantly ignoring the ‘law of the sea’
which specifies those in trouble must be rescued. Not content Italy’s new enfant terrible then
claimed Tunisia, Italy’s loyal ally in Northern Africa, was ‘exporting’ its criminals as refugees
to Italy.
                  Already the new Minister has proclaimed his admiration for Hungary’s Prime
Minister Viktor Orban, a virtual dictator who stunned Europe when he built a wall to keep out
refugees. Salvini, who seems to wield disproportionate power in the new two-party coalition
government (although his right-wing party only won 17 per cent of the vote) has proposed close
ties with the governments of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, all of them
former Soviet satellite countries embraced as members of the European Union. But their new
leaders were elected on anti-immigrant and anti-European Union platforms.
                 With Salvini’s anti-immigrant statements hogging the headlines, Sacko’s murder
was quickly forgotten though it was reported ‘the migrant workers of Sacko’s trade union have
gone on strike to protest his murder.’
                  The strike was a one-day affair, probably all the workers could afford.
                  After one migrant union leader publicly warned the new minister after Sacko’s
death ‘your days of package workers are over” Italy’s new Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte (an
unknown lawyer never involved in politics until he was presented as a compromise solution by
the two coalition partners) made reference to the ‘Sacko killing’ in his opening speech to
                 The House stood and clapped, a sign not all is lost and compassion still exists in la
Bella Italia.
                  Meanwhile, as expected the police claim the African was shot because he and two
other workers were ‘stealing’ metal sheets from a derelict factory in order to improve living
conditions in their ‘Tentopolis’ where about 800 people are squeezed into a mega-tent.  
The derelict factory from which Sacko took metal sheets has been legally
closed for the last fifteen years ago after 135 tons of clandestine toxic deposits were
found on its grounds, most likely another mafia affair. Organized crime is blamed in
Italy for the profitable business of dumping toxic waste in the ocean or in landfills or
old factories.
                 The man now arrested for firing four bullets at Sacko (wounding also two other
migrant workers) has been identified as ‘a close friend’ of the factory owner

Uli Schmetzer is a former foreign correspondent for Reuters and the Chicago Tribune. He
is the author of six books, all available on Amazon and Kindle.