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Julian's tale: "Child labor and exploitation in Sicily's greenhouses"

Julian started working in greenhouses in southern Sicily at the age of 14. He tells InfoMigrants how the 'Proxima' social cooperative helped him to escape the cycle of labor exploitation.

It was a little after his 13th birthday when Julian arrived in Italy from Romania with his family. Around a year later, he went to work in the greenhouses surrounding Vittoria, a town in southern Sicily. This area is an agricultural zone famous for greenhouse production, and large numbers of migrants – even children and teenagers – come here to work.

"In the beginning, we worked in the gangmaster system (In Italian, this is known as caporalato or corporal system). I don't know if you know what that means, but basically, a guy brings you here, and he says, 'I will give you work and a place to stay,' and he drives you to the fields and then says, 'you have to pay me €5 for that journey."

"I stopped going to school when I left Romania. I started work here soon after I turned 14. If I had known that I could go to school here, I would have continued going to school, but I didn't know that then, so I just went to work in the fields."

Many migrants come from outside the EU, but exploitation of migrant workers is not just confined to those who don't have an automatic right to work in Europe. Even European citizens like Julian can find themselves in an exploitative situation. "Working in the greenhouses, you are paid per day, and the contracts are not really fixed. You turn up, and they will give you something like €25 to €30 per day, you work for eight or nine hours a day. You don't get to take toilet breaks or decide when to stop, you are contracted to work nine hours, and you are expected to work for that time."

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