Marion MacGregor wrote an appalling article about Indian workers in Italian agriculture. Tens of thousands of Indians, mainly Sikhs from the Punjab region, live and work in Italy’s Pontine Marshes. In spite of ongoing efforts to bring attention to the problem, their living circumstances are far from ideal, writes Marion on infomigrants.net.
The Agro Pontino, a center of greenhouse farming, flower cultivation and buffalo mozzarella production, has attracted migrant laborers since the mid-1980s. Today, between 25,000 and 30,000 Indians live and work in the region, according to Marco Omizzolo, a well-known activist. "The migrant workers are effectively the slaves of so-called "caporali", the gangmasters who recruit farm laborers on behalf of landowners. Under the caporalato (forced labor) system, the workers are typically offered contracts, but are then paid for only a fraction of their work."
Yvan Sagnet, an activist and writer who has been knighted for his work to end modern slavery in Italy’s agricultural sector, experienced these inhumane conditions when he went to pick tomatoes on a farm in Puglia, in southern Italy, in 2011.
"I did not expect something like this, even in my own Africa I had never experienced such exploitation: dirt, grueling shifts under the scorching sun, crammed trips in minibuses to reach the fields," Sagnet said in an interview. "We were exhausted by the work and the very low pay, living in the yoke of the corporali for all of our travel to and from the towns. Many people arrive in Italy believing they will find paradise, they don't imagine what is behind it."
Video published in 12 July 2021 by TRT world, a Turkey-based international news provider.
The problem of exploitation of farmworkers is well known by Italy’s politicians. Thanks to a large protest movement started by Sagnet, Parliament finally made caporalato a criminal offence in 2016. But unions and activists say there are still too few checks and labor inspectors to enforce the law properly.
Omizzolo, who works with the Eurispes think tank, spent years researching farm labor abuse in the Latina area – some of it undercover. He lived for three months in Bella Farnia, a village mostly occupied by Indians, working incognito in the fields. In 2019, he too was awarded a knighthood in recognition of his "courageous work". In 2016, he played a major part, along with the Flai Cgil trade union, in organizing the first strike of the Agro Pontino's Indian workers. Since then their hourly pay has risen from €3 or less per hour to around €5 – although this is still only half the legal minimum wage.
Omizzolo told he recognizes that the working conditions are still far from ideal. But he said the protest made the Indians understand that "it pays to fight for your rights."
Read the complete article at www.infomigrants.net.