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20 Jul 2020

Maxim Edwards, Global Voices (Netherlands)

Pandemic raises awareness of ill treatment of Eastern European migrant workers

Fruit picking in a pandemic: Europe's precarious migrant workers, 14 July 2020

In late June, more than 1,500 workers at a meat processing plant in western Germany contracted COVID-19. Once the limit of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants had been surpassed, the lockdown of the facility and its neighbouring village was later extended to the entire district of Gütersloh, in the state of North-Rhine-Westphalia. It was the first lockdown on this scale since Germany relaxed federal restrictions on May 10.

Most of those infected at the Tönnies company's slaughterhouse were migrant workers from Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania. They are just a handful of the thousands of people from the EU's eastern member states who head to Germany every year to work in the country's food industry...

With this outbreak, another chapter has unfolded in Germany's public discussion about the status of seasonal labour migrants. Labour activists from Europe, East and West, are warning that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only illuminated these existing inequalities — it has deepened them.