By  on December 4, 2013

MILAN — Following Sunday’s fire at a Chinese-run Teresa Moda garment factory in Prato, Italy, in which seven immigrant workers perished, Prato mayor Roberto Cenni declared Wednesday a day of mourning, and thousands of local Chinese gathered outside the remains of the warehouse to show their solidarity with the victims. The city also held a special assembly titled “United for a Prato of legal rights and obligations.”

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 in the dark about 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. This has infuriated Prato’s Italian garment makers, many of whom struggle to compete in a market saturated with cheaply manufactured fast fashion. 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.

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