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Article

Europe: Agricultural workers underpaid, exploited and put at risk

Agriculture workers on an Argentinian strawberry farm

"Invisible workers: Underpaid, exploited and put at risk on Europe’s farms"

... In a joint investigation with Lighthouse Reports, Der Spiegel and Mediapart, Euronews interviewed dozens of farmworkers across [Europe], most of them cross-border migrants.

They complained of unpaid hours, working under tremendous pressure, with very little water or protection, some fainting and vomiting from the exhaustion. They showed us dire housing conditions and spoke of cases of verbal, physical and even sexual abuse. ...

Spain: ... Many farmworkers in the [the southern province of Huelva] are undocumented migrants living in "chabolas" – shacks made up of discarded pallets, pieces of cardboard and plastic leftover from greenhouses. These have no access to electricity, sanitation or clean water. ... Euronews and its partners interviewed over 20 current and former fruit pickers in Huelva. Many said they weren’t given any masks or gloves during the COVID-19 pandemic. All complained of unpaid hours, gruelling working conditions and tremendous pressure to gather large volumes of fruit. ...

Ana Pinto, a representative for "Jornaleras de Huelva en Lucha," a group defending the rights of seasonal workers in Huelva, said the pressure on fruit pickers had become even greater since the coronavirus pandemic. Especially as work inspections were almost non-existent under lockdown. ...

Most of the workers ... asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal. ...

Ten Moroccan women filed a lawsuit last year [in 2019...] claiming they had been trafficked, sexually assaulted and exploited while picking strawberries in the area.

France: [At a farm in southwestern France u]p to five adults were packed together in one bedroom. Others slept in bunk beds, in violation of French laws relating to the housing of seasonal workers. No bedsheets or pillows were provided. There was no toilet paper in the restrooms. ... We spoke to more than a dozen people who worked on these farms. They described long working days, extra hours left unpaid, and excessive housing costs.

[Germany:] ... meatpacking firm Tönnies came under fire when it struggled to help authorities track and trace hundreds of infected workers. Much of the company’s workforce is hired in Eastern Europe, via subcontractors accused by unions of underpaying extra working hours and charging migrant workers hundreds of euros of rental fees for a bed in a shared room. ...