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12 Jul 2021

Nikolaj Houmann Mortensen and Stefania Prandi

Spain: Women migrant workers allegedly face exploitation & sexual abuse picking fruit for European supermarkets

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"In Spain’s strawberry fields, migrant women face sexual abuse", 10 July 2021

Talking to the migrant workers who pick strawberries in Europe’s biggest red fruit producing region, the Huelva province in Spain, is not easy. The fields are fenced, and in many places there are surveillance cameras, guards and electric gates which close as soon as strangers approach.

But after these reporters handed out their phone numbers to a group of strawberry pickers in the area, inviting them to be interviewed, Jadida called back because she wanted to share her experiences of sexual abuse, allegedly by her supervisor...

Continuously rejecting him has had consequences. The supervisor now threatens to have her fired and sent back to Morocco...

Al Jazeera, in collaboration with the Danish investigative media outlet Danwatch, interviewed 16 female farm workers, all of whom had contracts with the seven largest red fruit producers who sell to well-known supermarkets in the UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

Most workers recounted daily humiliations, such as penalties for taking toilet breaks, union busting and little or no protection against COVID-19. Several reported sexual harassment and being blackmailed for sex...

Strawberry pickers with temporary work visas have few opportunities to report harassment and abuse.

Most arrive as part of a bilateral “contracting in origin” agreement between Morocco and Spain which in 2019 alone, saw almost 20,000 Moroccan women pick Spanish strawberries.

According to the deal, migrants lose the opportunity to work in Spain if they leave their Spanish workplace for any reason.

Furthermore, it emphasises that the Moroccan state recruitment agency ANAPEC must ensure that migrant workers return to Morocco when the season ends...

The women stay in small apartments – barracks and containers in between the greenhouses, far from any town centre.

Isolated and reliant on temporary work visas, they are extremely dependent on their employers’ mercy, not only for security but also basic health standards, unions and local NGOs claim...