The University of New Haven prides itself on its sister campus in Prato, Italy. The campus gives students the opportunity to study abroad and take classes related to their major, all while being in another country.
What most students don’t know is that Prato was once one of the world’s largest textile producers. In 2000, Prato exported $7 billion of textiles. You can take a visit to the old textile mill, which has been converted to a museum and has a beautiful library attached.
In recent years, Chinese immigrants are coming to Prato to produce clothing and work in what is otherwise known as sweatshops.
The immigrants live in what factory owners calls dormitories, inside the shops. They can be actual rooms crammed with dozens of workers or cots on the ground. which are rarely used as workers are forced to produce clothing around the clock.
The Chinese rent the property from Italians, who turn a blind eye to what is happening. These workers rarely see the world outside the shops. They work seven days a week for meager wages of €2 – 3 an hour — and that is almost double what they would make back home. Some see Prato as an opportunity for better jobs.
A 28-year old garment worker, Wei Dingwen, said that he worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and that almost all of his first year’s pay has gone to his smugglers.
Prato is home the largest concentration of Chinese people in Europe, both illegal and legal. There is a clear divide between Prato’s Chinatown and the Italian section of the city. The Chinese carry out their lives away from the Italians. But Italian officials have increased raids to find illegal immigrants, and those who are found guilty of crimes in this industry and of the immigrants.
The Italian citizens are not taking lightly to the increase of immigrants as they move to buy out Italian shops and homes, and as the immigrants continue to broaden the area in which they live.
By Nikki Iannace