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7 Jul 2021


Italy: Farm worker from India exploited over six years in 'slave-like' working & living conditions

"Six years a slave: Indian farm workers exploited in Italy", 11 July 2021

When Balbir Singh refers to his ordeal, he uses the Italian word "macello", which roughly translates as "mess" -- but it is hardly enough to convey what the migrant Indian farm worker has endured.

For six years, he lived in what can only be described as slave-like conditions tending cattle in the province of Latina, a rural area south of Rome that is home to tens of thousands of Indian migrant workers like him.

"I was working 12-13 hours a day, including Sundays, with no holidays, no rest," Singh told AFP.

The farm owner paid him 100 to 150 euros ($120 to $175) a month, he said, which amounts to less than 50 cents an hour.

The legal minimum for farm workers is around 10 euros an hour.

Singh was rescued by a police raid on March 17, 2017 after appealing for help via Facebook and WhatsApp to local Indian community leaders and an Italian rights activist.

Officers found him living in a caravan, with no gas, hot water or electricity, and eating the leftovers that his boss either threw in the bin or gave to chickens and pigs...

...Singh said he was beaten up a couple of times, and had his identity papers taken away.

His former employer is now on trial for labour exploitation, while Singh is living in a secret location for fear of retribution.

Singh's story is extreme, but it fits into a wider picture of brutal exploitation of migrant farm labourers in the Agro Pontino -- the Pontine Marshes, the plain around Latina -- and elsewhere in Italy...

...In the Agro Pontino, a major hub for greenhouse farming, floriculture and buffalo mozzarella production, Indians have been a presence since the mid-1980s...

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