Rome Newsroom, Jul 13, 2020 / 07:30 am
Mafia loan sharks have exploited the economic downturn creating a hidden “new slavery” of usury within communities, an Italian bishop said Sunday.
Bishop Giovanni D’Alise of the southern Diocese of Caserta issued the warning following reports that some parents had been forced to send their children to work off family debts to local mobsters.
“I tell my communities and priests and all those in Caserta who have business dealings, to all the baptized who work more actively for the common good, to keep their eyes open,” D’Alise told the Italian newspaper Avvernire on July 12.
Organized crime, especially loan sharking, has been on the rise following the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. With many businesses and industries closed for weeks or months in some areas, local mob figures were often used as lenders of last resort for struggling families.
The bishop, whose diocese is in the Campania region of Naples, said that “under our eyes unthinkable things are happening.”
D’Alise’s comments were based on a report from Caserta’s Chamber of Commerce, which found that loan sharks were demanding children to be sent to work to pay off their parents’ debt as Italy’s economy worsens as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“If there are sons or daughters of a working age, legally, adults or minors, the loan shark asks the father to use them in a firm close to him, but which cannot be traced back to him," Tommaso De Simone, the Caserta Chamber of Commerce president told Avvenire July 10.
Usury in southern Italy has grown “exponentially” in recent months due to the country’s lockdown, according to De Simone.