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18 Mar 2021

Deutsche Welle

Germany: Seasonal workers living & working in precarious conditions in second harvest season of Covid-19 pandemic

"Seasonal workers flock to Germany for asparagus harvest under COVID restrictions", 18 March 2021

...For the second year in a row, farmers are facing up to a harvest season in the coronavirus pandemic. Even though they are prepared this time, they are "a little nervous" about what is to come.

"We might know a little bit more of what to expect this year," says 32-year-old Chris Hensgens. "Last March we didn't know anything."

Selfkant is in the Heinsberg district, the first coronavirus hotspot in Germany back in February 2020. As soon as they heard about the outbreak, three of the 10 workers who were already on the farm immediately got straight into their cars and drove back to Romania out of fear, Chris says.

In the lockdown that followed, harvest workers were initially banned from coming into Germany at all. Then rules changed so that farmers were allowed to fly in workers at their own expense...

...Maintaining strict hygiene requirements is a logistical challenge for everyone on the farm. Only some of the harvest workers can still be accommodated in the long residential buildings, which are equipped with four-bedrooms, large communal kitchens, lounges, and washrooms...

...A large proportion of the 350,000 seasonal workers in agriculture throughout Germany work under precarious conditions. Eastern European employees, in particular, suffer from "untenable conditions" and often have to work 13 hours a day for "meager pay," according to the union...