Letter to the Head of Civil Protection, Fabrizio Curcio, the Special Commissioner for the Reconstruction, Vasco Errani, and the (former?) President of the Council, Matteo Renzi

First, I would like to congratulate you all on the work you have done so far. At present, around 90% of the families affected by the earthquake of August 24th have been assisted (some of them are in hotel facilities, some other in houses rented with the contribution for the autonomous arrangement) and they are now waiting for the arrival of the wooden houses expected by next spring. The 90% of the population is a great result of which being satisfied.

Moderately satisfied. However. Because the remaining 10% of the population, three months and a half away from the earthquake, is still living in hard conditions -and not by their choice. This 10% cannot leave the territory, for some reason – and therefore they cannot be temporarily transferred to hotel facilities nor can they use the contribution for autonomous accommodations to rent a house elsewhere.  Mostly they are breeders who cannot abandon the livestock. This people deserve the utmost respect and commitment, especially because their small businesses are the lifeblood of a part of Italy that is still working. It works well, as shown by the enormous national and international success of the typical products of Central Italy.

What has been done for these breeders?

Not much, really. A month after the earthquake, at the end of September, most of them were still sleeping in tents. Today, more than three months after the earthquake, many of them are still sleeping in caravans provided by associations (not the state!). State organs have been and still are absent. Or nearly absent. Because the first temporary living modules have been delivered, but here is the thing: they are very small and very inadequate to meet the need of the population. They are so inadequate that they come within a criminal offence. Not just any offence, but the offence of torture.

It may seem a bit of an exaggeration, but unfortunately, it is not. Let us consider the case of the Guerrini family, a family of three breeders that lives in Faizzone, one of the most affected districts in the neighbourhood of Amatrice. The Guerrini have become famous at the end of September whenLa Via del Sale ONLUS (of which I am the deputy president) decided to give them a prefabricated modules (after finding out that for a month they have been sleeping in atent covered in mud and which is impossible to get into except with boots).  We installed it on their property, despite the permissions were denied by the Municipality of Amatrice. It was the first prefabricated module to enter the territory of Amatrice and for a few days we suspected it should have been removed because it represented an urbanisation abuse. The case had national resonance, indeed, SkyTG24, TG1 and TG5 handled it. Luckily, the common sense finally got the better: the module was not removed and the Guerrini still live there, even though they have not any official permission.

Two Sundays ago, I went to Faizzone to greet the Guerrini family. The good news is that the temporary module of the Civil Protection has arrived. The bad news is that this module (in the picture below) is inadequate to satisfy their needs. It is a 15sqare metres module, too small for a family composed of three people. And that is not me saying that. It the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. This committee stipulates that the minimum quadrature of a single detention cell should be 7sqm per person (Article 43). Therefore, the Guerrins – and dozens of other breeders’ families – should spend the winter worse off than prisoners. This may come within the crime of torture. TORTURE.


Temporary module delivered to the Guerrini family by Civil Protection

A typical Italian paradox. Prefabricated modules cannot be installed privately or it would be a crime (urbanisation abuse), but the alternative are the modules of the Civil Protection, which not only arrive very slowly, but also fall within the limits of a crime; and this crime is far worse than the urbanisation abuse: the crime of torture.

Is there a way out from this paradoxical situation?

I guess that a decree-law redefining the limits within which the installation of temporary modules in an emergency situation is urbanisation abuse, might be a good answer. For instance, in the case of natural catastrophes, it might be possible to temporary install modules of a size not exceeding 10mq per person. Another way, suggested by Giorgio Nibbi in a piece on “Il Fatto Quotidiano”, might be the installation of prefabricated modules of any size that must be removed one month after the delivery of the wooden module expected in the spring – otherwise face a strong fines and possible criminal complaints for urbanisation abuse.


Semi-mobile module donated to the Guerrini family by the La Via del Sale ONLUS.

There are many ways to go, and I am sure you have the expertise and the necessary skills to determine which one may better work. Anyway, something needs to be done. As soon as possible. Winter is coming and this remaining 10% of the population deserve to spend it with dignity.

Valerio Capraro is an Associate Professor at the Middlesex University London School of Economics. His research focuses on the conflict between co-operation and selfishness.




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