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14 Mar 2017

Lorenzo Tondo and Annie Kelly, Observer (UK)

Italy: Sexual abuse & slave-like conditions allegedly widespread for Romanian farmworkers in Sicilian greenhouses

"Raped, beaten, exploited: the 21st-century slavery propping up Sicilian farming", 12 Mar 2017

(Photo credit: Observer)

...The province of Ragusa is the third-largest producer of vegetables in Europe...The Observer spoke to 10 Romanian women working on farms in Ragusa. All detailed routine sexual assault and exploitation, including working 12-hour days in extreme heat with no water, non-payment of wages and being forced to live in degrading and unsanitary conditions in isolated outbuildings. Their working days often include physical violence, being threatened with weapons and being blackmailed with threats to their children and family...Professor Alessandra Sciurba from the University of Palermo co-wrote a report in 2015 that documented the abuse that Romanian women in Sicily were facing. She says conditions are worse now...Those who did report their abuse to the authorities said they then often found themselves unable to find work elsewhere...Italian agriculture has for many years been heavily reliant on migrant labour. One farming group, Coldiretti, estimates that about 120,000 migrants are working in the sector in southern Italy. After years of damaging allegations of exploitation and a resulting clampdown by the Italian government, Sicilian farmers who once filled their greenhouses with undocumented migrants and refugees arriving by boat have turned to migrant workers from within the EU...there is little political or economic incentive for the authorities to take action and end the abuse. Although the police say they have dozens of open cases and ongoing prosecutions, only one farmer has so far been charged and convicted of abusing Romanian women...Attempts to raise the issue in the Italian parliament have floundered...