Australia: Report finds undocumented workers in horticulture industry are prone to Covid-19 infection due to substandard & overcrowded accommodations

A report by Associate Professor Joanna Howe from University of Adelaide and Dr Ankur Singh from University of Melbourne, Covid-19 and Undocumented Workers in the Australian Horticulture Industry, finds that undocumented workers are prone to a high risk of infection. Their substandard and overcrowded accommodation and their social and economic circumstances place them at risk of low compliance to physical distancing and are unlikely to opt for testing and assist in contact tracing.

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Article
19 May 2020

High Risk Situation on Our Farms: New Research Released on the Risks for Undocumented Workers in Covid-19 Pandemic

Author: United Workers Union

20 May 2020

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The key findings in the report Covid-19 and Undocumented Workers in the Australian Horticulture Industry by Associate Professor Joanna Howe from University of Adelaide and Dr Ankur Singh from University of Melbourne:

  • Undocumented workers are prone to a high risk of infection and generating new clusters of infection;
  • Undocumented workers have precarious living and work conditions – these put at risk Australia's initial success in controlling Covid-19 infection;
  • Substandard and overcrowded accommodation, the nature of work on farms, sharing of essential facilities and the social and economic circumstances of undocumented workers place them at risk of low compliance to physical distancing and these workers are unlikely to opt for testing and assist in contact tracing;
  • Without addressing the fear of detention that undocumented workers have because of their uncertain immigration status, it will be almost impossible for the government to mitigate the public health risks arising from undocumented workers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Article
18 May 2020

Amnesty call amid fears of 'new clusters' among undocumented workers

Author: Ben Schneiders, The Age

19 May 2020

Australia's large undocumented labour force is at major risk of catching COVID-19, a new report warns, with many working and living in crowded and cramped conditions.

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A report by Associate Professor Joanna Howe and Dr Ankur Singh, for the United Workers Union, found undocumented workers were at a high risk of infection and creating "new clusters of infection".

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The undocumented migrant workforce is smaller in Australia but many live several people to a room, are exploited by middlemen and are regularly underpaid, the report said.

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The report said accommodation is often sub-standard, with poor ventilation and unhygienic due to large numbers of people sharing sanitary and cooking facilities.

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"These put at risk Australia's initial success in controlling COVID-19 infection, hamper infection control protocols and pose measurable risk to the Australian population.

"Risk of identification, detention and deportation renders them unlikely to opt for testing and assist in contact tracing – crucial elements of infection control."

Jannette Armstrong, the United Workers Union's farms director, said undocumented workers were often reluctant to visit doctors due to cost and fear of deportation. The union wants an amnesty for them to work legally.

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The Victorian Farmers Federation, recognising how important these workers are to their industry, wants both an amnesty for undocumented workers and a new agriculture visa.

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Estimates vary on how many undocumented workers there are in Australia, from 60,000 to 100,000 people. They are thought to most commonly work in hospitality, cleaning, massage, construction and on farms.

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