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Prato Fire Stirs Scrutiny

The Dec. 1 fire at a Prato, Italy, garment factory has led to greater scrutiny this week of other illegal apparel operations in the region.

MILAN — The Dec. 1 fire at a Prato, Italy, garment factory has led to greater scrutiny this week of other illegal apparel operations in the region and the Italian Ministry of the Interior has called for a special meeting Thursday in Rome to discuss the problem, said a spokeswoman for the ministry.

Italy’s interior minister Angelino Alfano summoned Tuscany president Enrico Rossi, Prato province president Lamberto Gestri and Prato mayor Roberto Cenni to the meeting.

The fire at the Chinese-run Teresa Moda garment factory killed seven immigrant workers. The police have arrested four people so far in connection with the tragedy — all Chinese — and charges include multiple counts of reckless homicide, a malicious lack of safeguards and exploitation of illegal laborers. It is unclear if the Italian owners of the warehouse, who claim to have been unaware of its activities, will also face prosecution.

In addition to allegedly paying slave wages, mistreating workers and disregarding Italy’s stringent workplace safety norms, Teresa Moda was allegedly producing clothing made from Chinese textiles with “Made in Italy” labels stitched inside. While it appears that Teresa Moda conducted its business off the books, making product traceability difficult, it is understood that the company was not producing for any major brands, but instead selling to a variety of markets nationally and outside Italy.

According to a July report from Istat, the Italian statistics bureau, as of Jan. 1, there were 304,768 legal Chinese residents in Italy, and they made up the third-largest immigrant group after Moroccans and Albanians, in addition to being the fastest-growing, up 10 percent over the previous year.