Modern-day slavery

How many of us eat the salads in the envelope that are found in all supermarkets? I bet you also fall into the number.

This article of Avvenire that I leave you entirely to read is shocking. Because slavery still exists, even if we are in the 21st century and want to be so advanced.

“A little house in the middle of the fields of watermelons and corn. Little more than a shack. A cube of concrete blocks three meters by three, with the roof in eternit, asbestos. There live six Moroccans, without water or electricity. They sleep on the ground on old mattresses, between dirt and decay. This is how the labourers of the Piana del Sele live, a land of rich agriculture, especially in the greenhouse, the products of ‘fourth range’, the salads and other vegetables in the envelope. But also farming exploitation, even more in Covid time. Alongside the exploited for years there are the operators of the Caritas of Teggiano-Policastro, with the Presidio and Sipla projects. They accompany us: the coordinator Alvaro D’Ambrosio, head of the Agesci Scout area, and the Tunisian cultural mediator Raouf, a dramatic story of immigration that we will tell another time. We are in Papaleo in the Eboli countryside because these migrants need help, both material and for documents. They called and the volunteers arrived, reaching the isolated slum, between little streets almost impassable.

Today only one of them worked. He left at 4 in the morning and returned at 17. He collected tomatoes in the greenhouse (inside these days the temperature exceeds 40 degrees) for just 25 euros. But at least he worked. Mohamed no. He is 25 years old and his story is really incredible. He was born in Biella where his parents had emigrated, but then at 5 years he went to Morocco. Three years ago he returned to Italy with a tourist permit, then turned into a family thanks to grandparents who live in our country but then they sent him away. «Now I have no document. I did not make the sanatorium because I do not have a contract.

But to have the contract you need the residence». And certainly the hut is not. So they asked him 500 euros for a false residence. But he does not have them and so he remains an ‘invisible’ even if he was born in Italy. Alvaro assures that he will ask the lawyer if he can do something. Meanwhile, he and Raouf unload rice, pasta, pastas, oil, tuna, beans, and masks. At least for a few days they will not have the problem of feeding. There is a health problem. One of them has his body covered with bubbles, they look like insect bites but they could also be chemicals sprayed in massive doses in greenhouses. The volunteers promise to return with the medicines, after talking to the doctor, to which the 6 are not entitled as totally ‘invisible’. And with the pandemic «the condition of immigrant workers has further worsened and many have asked us for help», says Fr Martino De Pasquale, director of the diocesan Caritas. So Caritas has made more than a thousand buffers while, despite the decisions of the Region, «the vaccinations of the ‘invisible’ are delayed – denounces Alvaro -. We inform that it is possible to vaccinate even if you do not have a health card and only the Stp, but many do not have this and the Asl is slow»

Also because only some entrepreneurs ask for vaccination while others rely on corporals and only care about having workers. So the pandemic has brought out even more exploitation. The workers are crammed into the vans without distance or masks», Don Martino still denounces. And some prudential rules have lasted very little. «In May, instead of putting the farmers in front of each other as usual, they did a yes and a no. But it lasted very little and they returned to the harvest face to face». While the pay has often dropped, from 30-35 euros in recent years to 20 euros for those without papers. For 10-12 hours a day. Caritas followed about seventy applications for sanatorium, about half of farm workers and half of carers. «But for now only a dozen have obtained a residence permit».

This year there are many less seasonal from Eastern countries, while Moroccan seasonal have increased. Women continue to be paid 20% less, but there was something new for them. «It is the phenomenon of the ‘factor’ – explains Alvaro -, female corporals, both Italian and immigrant, who manage groups of women labourers». And we return to talk about residence permits and sanatorium with Giuseppe Grimaldi, anthropologist, professor at the Romatre University, president of the association Frontiera Sud that works in network with Caritas.

Many do not work because they are irregular and therefore at risk because for the Covid emergency police checks have increased. So many have tried with the sanatoria but with false employment contracts paid at a high price». Omar paid an entrepreneur as much as 7 thousand euros but so far the contract has not seen him. And like him at least another 80. Alì, 24 years old, had to pay 600 euros for housing eligibility mandatory for the sanatorium. Obviously false. «Immigrants have coined a word for these behaviors, they call it ‘taking advantage’», Grimaldi explains. And he also tells us what we heard in all the places we touched in our journey between immigrants and corporals in the time of Covid. «The pandemic has accelerated exploitation. Where is all the security that there is in the rest of the country? ». Although, he adds, «90% of immigrants do not know they are being exploited ».

Exploitation not only in agriculture. Many immigrants work in the shores for 20-25 euros a day, to shovel sand, open umbrellas, do cleaning. «Pure labor». And to the sea they have reappeared also the peddlers. And also this year the bishop of Teggiano-Policastro monsignor Antonio De Luca hosts 10, all women, in the Episcope of Policastro. Otherwise they would end up sleeping on the beach. While many others go to the Sapri cafeteria to pick up the basket for lunch. Not the only concrete initiatives of the diocese. The latest arrival is the ‘Bottega dell’orefice’, which in the Sala Consilina houses a center for mental distress. Among them also a 26-year-old boy victim of violence in Libyan prison camps”.

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