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8 Jun 2021

Jochen Faget, Deutsche Welle

Portugal: Asian migrant workers in agriculture at heightened risk of labour exploitation & human trafficking

"Cheap Asian workers flock to Portugal's farms", 8 June 2021

They look like chained convicts in a labor camp when they head out early in the morning to the fields, greenhouses and vineyards near the central Portuguese town of Almeirim — migrant workers from Asia who are assigned their day's work by the foreman.

Indians prune vines, Thais pick raspberries which are also exported to Germany, Nepalese harvest broccoli destined for Britain, and Pakistanis harvest sweet potatoes for France.

There are said to be more than 3,000 migrant farm laborers in this region alone, and probably well over 30,000 across Portugal, according to estimates by civil rights organizations. Most of them are in the country semi-legally, still waiting for their Portuguese papers. They live in inhumane conditions, often working more than 10 hours a day and brutally exploited by dubious temporary employment agencies that place them on farms...

...Previously, Asian laborers were lured mainly to the Alentejo region in Portugal's south, home to a booming berry cultivation industry. Today, they are everywhere — the growing popularity of Portugal's agricultural exports has only increased the local companies' appetite for cheap labor.

The Portuguese authorities became aware of the problem just last year when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. It was decided to legalize all those who could prove three months of paid work and social security contributions.

However, that did not solve the problem: The Portuguese immigration police needed months, often up to a year, to examine the applications. Some of the applicants lived in residential containers or were crammed into derelict houses, forced to depend on mafia-like employment agencies...

Part of the following timelines

Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers across Europe at heightened risk of abuse & exploitation during second harvest season amid COVID-19

Indian agricultural labourers face exploitation & abuse across Europe