According to a New York Times report, more than 1,000 African workers in Calabria, a southern Italian region, were shipped away to detention centers for immigrants after a series of riots.

The uproar began last week in Rosarno, Italy, after an immigrant from Togo was slightly injured during a pellet gun attack in a neighboring town. The report said police were unsure who shot the man, but authorities are investigating whether an organized crime unit had initiated the anarchy.

Those involved in the riots, however, pointed to racism as the impetus for the attacks. Cars were burned, windows were shattered and local residents were barraged in a hail of rocks, leaving more than 50 immigrants and police officers wounded.

By Jan. 9, Italian authorities began deploying the immigrants to detention centers in various parts of southern Italy.

According to the Times, race relations in Italy have gotten progressively worse as the European country’s economy has taken a nosedive. The report also said many Italians are struggling to accept foreigners in their country.

“This event pulled the lid off something that we who work in the sector know well but no one talks about: That many Italian economic realities are based on the exploitation of low-cost foreign labor, living in subhuman conditions, without human rights,” Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration in Italy, told the Times.

The workers live in “semi-slavery,” he added. “It’s shameful that this is happening in the heart of Italy.”