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Home / Resources / News / Terragiusta. Campaign against the exploitation of migrant workers in agriculture

Terragiusta. Campaign against the exploitation of migrant workers in agriculture

Article by Giulia Bari, Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU)

The Italian agricultural sector depends heavily on the presence of migrant workers. Most of them – in particular in the southern regions of Italy – are exploited: they earn 25-30 euros per day, often without a working contract and, in many cases, with the intermediation of a “caporale”. Most of them, also, are living in shanty towns, abandoned country cottages or tents, facing critical hygienic and living conditions. The Terragiusta project – run by MEDU – intends to intervene with a mobile clinic in isolated areas far from urban centres and characterized by a strong marginalization in order to provide first hand medical care and social-legal and health guidance to the migrant workers and to assess, through a questionnaire, their living conditions (health, work, housing facilities).


Abandoned building which was home to 700 migrant workers, San Nicola Varco, Salerno

The first medium-term intervention was carried out in Calabria (Piana di Gioia Tauro) from the 8th of February to the 8th of April 2014 due to the alarming conditions of life and work of migrant labourers during the winter. Within two months, the team has provided  socio-legal and health guidance and medical care to 260 migrants. The majority of the patients were young – 80% below the age of 35 – coming mostly from Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal. Furthermore in 70% of the cases, patients possessed a regular residence permit and almost half of them (45%) were holders of an international or “humanitarian” protection status. 95% of them have been living in Italy for more than two years, and 68% possess sufficient or good knowledge of the Italian language. 89% did not work with a regular contract and 64% were paid on average 25€ or less for one day of work. Almost half of the migrants (46%) were not working for more than three days a week, for seven- eight hours daily shifts, even though one in four workers declared to work nine or ten hours a day. One third of the migrants, who were examined by the MEDU doctor consumed only two meals a day, while the majority of the diagnosed illnesses, in a young and otherwise substantially healthy population, are due to the poor living and hygienic-sanitary condition and the hard conditions of work. All the interviewed migrants possessed gloves to be used as a security measure during work whereas only 29% were equipped with adequate working shoes. In 97% of the cases the workers had to purchase their own safety equipment because they were not provided by the employers.


Abandoned building which was home to 700 migrant workers, San Nicola Varco, Salerno

The second medium-term intervention was carried out in Campania (Piana del Sele) from the 24th of April to the 24th of June 2014. During the two months MEDU interviewed 177 migrant workers, of which 133 have benefited from the service of medical assistance and guidance provided by the mobile clinic of the association. Of the 177 people surveyed, 85% are male, the average age is 35-36 years and the main nationalities are detected Morocco (85%), Algeria (6.2%) and Romania (5.7%). As reported in the Piana di Gioia Tauro, it is a population that holds a valid residence permit in more than 70% of cases. But, if the foreigners employed in the agriculture sector in Calabria were mostly refugees or beneficiaries of international protection, in the Piana del Sele more than 80% of cases have a residence permit for employment purposes and they are often victims of scams for the renewal of residence permits and of employment contracts emptied of their value because the employer often declares less than half of the real days/hours worked by the hired hand.

Read the reports

Reception of seasonal workers. Rosarno and the Gioia Tauro Plateau (Piana di Gioia Tauro) are left alone
Piana del Sele – Eboli: lo sfruttamento dei braccianti immigrati (e non solo) nella “California d’Italia”

Watch the videos

Rosarno e la Piana di Gioia Tauro sono rimasti soli

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