• #Coronavirus fears for Italy’s exploited African fruit pickers

    As panic buyers empty supermarket shelves across the world, are the agricultural workers who fill them being protected?

    As Italy’s north struggles to contain the spread of coronavirus, fears are growing in the south for thousands of migrant workers, mostly from Africa, who pick fruit and vegetables for a pittance and live in overcrowded tent camps and shantytowns.

    The health infrastructure in the south is not as advanced as that in the north, and a vast infection outbreak could be devastating.

    “Coronavirus cases have steadily increased also in other regions in Italy over the past weeks,” said public health expert Nino Cartabellotta. “There is a delay of around five days compared with the north, although we are witnessing the same growth curve across the country.”

    In the north, foreign farm workers hailing from Eastern Europe have returned to their home countries, choosing to risk poverty over disease, and there are no new arrivals.

    But fruit pickers in the south are stuck in camps, often lacking water and electricity and facing exploitation.

    Italy is not alone.

    Migrant workers are exploited across the European Union, forced to work endless hours and denied minimum wage or safety equipment, research by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights shows.

    Now, the coronavirus pandemic endangers them further.

    In 2016, Coldiretti, a farmers’ group, estimated that there were around 120,000 migrant workers in Italy, mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe.

    Some 2,500 African crop pickers work in Calabria’s Gioia Tauro plain, a farming hot spot in the south known for tangerines, oranges, olives and kiwis and for being an infamous mafia stronghold.

    Agricultural employers often work by the “caporalato”, an illegal employment system in which labourers are exploited for little pay.

    Two weeks ago, the region had no known coronavirus cases. Today, there are at least 169.

    Last summer, the largest shantytown in the plain was shut down. Italian civil defence built a new camp with running water and electricity a few metres away from the old informal settlement, but equipped it with just 500 beds.

    This tent camp was eventually sanitised on Sunday, after repeated calls from humanitarian associations and the town’s mayor.

    Although hygiene conditions are better than in the nearby slums, strongly advised social distancing measures are almost impossible to implement.

    After the old shantytown was evacuated, its residents were not provided alternative housing, save for a small tent camp, forcing many to look for new improvised shelters somewhere else.

    In the neighbouring towns of Taurianova and Rizziconi, two overcrowded slums hosting 200 people each have emerged. Migrants live in shacks built from cardboard, wood, plastic and scrap metal.

    Potable water and electricity are nowhere to be found. Workers build makeshift toilets or simply relieve themselves in the fields.

    “This requires an immediate intervention from the authorities to put these people in a condition of safety and dignity,” Francesco Piobbichi, who works with Mediterranean Hope FCEI, a project run by Italy’s Evangelical Church Federation, told Al Jazeera. "These workers are key to fill supermarkets’ shelves with fresh fruits and vegetables. We cannot deny them protection amid the emergency.

    “Our protracted attempt of dismantling the slums now needs a drastic acceleration. We are telling the civil defence, the government and regional councils they need to provide these workers with a housing solution as soon as possible to avoid the spread of the infection.”

    There are some 35,000 empty houses in the agricultural plain. Aid agencies say that instead of investing in more camps, workers should be allowed to use these homes.

    Hand sanitiser has been distributed at settlements, said Andrea Tripodi, mayor of San Ferdinando, adding he also managed to secure gloves and finalised the purchase of cameras with a thermal scanning system to quickly identify people with a fever - one of the coronavirus symptoms.

    “We certainly need more measures and other devices amid this health emergency, also to prevent social tension from rising,” Tripodi said. “We are doing everything we can. We are also collecting soaps and shampoos to distribute among the workers. But we are left alone.”

    Aid groups, meanwhile, are busy raising awareness.

    “But it is really complex to explain to them that they need to wash their hands for about 25 seconds when they lack water in their settlements because the prefecture dismantled their camp’s illegal connection,” Piobbichi said, adding that the current nationwide lockdown restricts the movement of both aid workers and migrants.

    In the southern province of Foggia, 500 kilometres north of Gioia Tauro, thousands pick tomatoes, olives, asparagus, artichokes and grapes in the country’s largest agricultural plain.

    “The situation has become a race against the clock,” said Alessandro Verona, a health worker with the humanitarian group INTERSOS. “We are expecting a peak of the pandemic in Apulia towards the end of the month or beginning of the next.”

    Apulia has more than 200 infected patients. But like in Calabria, no infection has yet been confirmed among the migrant workers.

    “We are making blanket prevention activities across all settlements. We have reached around 500 people so far. Still, this is not enough.”

    In many of these settlements, water shortages are common and in emergencies people resort to farm water.

    “The only efficient prevention measure is to take these people out of the ghettos as soon as possible, especially from the most crowded ones. If not, we will face an unmanageable situation. But only the government and the institutions are capable of such a thing,” Verona said.

    In southern Campania, migrant workers are still gathering near large roundabouts of busy roads to meet their bosses. The region has now more than 650 infected patients.

    Jean d’Hainaut, cultural mediator with the anti-exploitation Dedalus cooperative, said among the people his association supports, many are waiting for their asylum requests to be completed - meaning they lack a residency permit and cannot access basic healthcare.

    Italy grants residency permits to migrant workers possessing contracts. But lengthy bureaucratic processes mean permits frequently arrive late, often towards their expiration. This process has been suspended amid the pandemic.

    In November 2018, Italy passed the so-called “migration and security decree” drafted by former Italian interior minister and far-right League party leader, Matteo Salvini - a move that pushed hundreds of vulnerable asylum seekers onto streets.

    The document cracked down on asylum rights by abolishing the “humanitarian protection” - a residence permit issued for those who do not qualify for refugee status or subsidiary protection but were deemed as vulnerable.

    “Over 90 percent of the people we meet at the roundabouts hail from Africa’s sub-Saharan countries. We are talking about a couple of hundred of workers, though numbers are difficult to pin down precisely,” d’Hainaut says.

    “We have been distributing a safety kit among workers for the past couple of years,” he says. “This has now turned to be very useful as it includes gloves, paper-made protective clothing and protective masks.”

    The agency has decided to remain on the street to keep offering its services to the migrant workers whose daily job means survival.

    “Last Thursday, I only saw around 20 people waiting for recruiters. The information campaign has been successful. Still, demand for workers has also decreased. I’ve asked the municipality to help distribute food,” d’ Hainaut.

    “This would further limit people’s presence on the street. I’d feel more reassured to tell workers to stay home while providing them with something to eat.”

    https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/coronavirus-fears-italy-exploited-african-fruit-pickers-200318154351889.h
    #Italie #travail #exploitation #tomates #Campania #fruits #Gioia_Tauro #Calabre #Calabria #caporalato #Taurianova #Rizziconi #campement #baraccopoli #légumes #Pouilles #prévention

  • ’I had pain all over my body’: Italy’s tainted tobacco industry

    Three of the world’s largest tobacco manufacturers, #Philip_Morris, #British_American_Tobacco and #Imperial_Brands, are buying leaves that could have been picked by exploited African migrants working in Italy’s multi-million euro industry.

    Workers including children, said they were forced to work up to 12 hours a day without contracts or sufficient health and safety equipment in Campania, a region that produces more than a third of Italy’s tobacco. Some workers said they were paid about three euros an hour.

    The Guardian investigation into Italy’s tobacco industry, which spanned three years, is believed to be the first in Europe to examine the supply chain.

    Italy’s tobacco market is dominated by the three multinational manufacturers, all of whom buy from local producers. According to an internal report by the farmers’ organisation ONT Italia, seen by the Guardian and confirmed by a document from the European Leaf Tobacco Interbranch, the companies bought three-fifths of Italian tobacco in 2017. Philip Morris alone purchased 21,000 tons of the 50,000 tons harvested that year.

    The multinationals all said they buy from suppliers who operate under a strict code of conduct to ensure fair treatment of workers. Philip Morris said it had not come across any abuse. Imperial and British American said they would investigate any complaints brought to their attention.

    Italy is the EU’s leading tobacco producer. In 2017, the industry was worth €149m (£131m).

    Despite there being a complex system of guarantees and safeguards in place for tobacco workers, more than 20 asylum seekers who spoke to the Guardian, including 10 who had worked in the tobacco fields during the 2018 season, reported rights violations and a lack of safety equipment.

    The interviewees said they had no employment contracts, were paid wages below legal standards, and had to work up to 12 work hours a day. They also said they had no access to clean water, and suffered verbal abuse and racial discrimination from bosses. Two interviewees were underage and employed in hazardous work.

    Didier, born and raised in Ivory Coast, arrived in Italy via Libya. He recently turned 18, but was 17 when, last spring, a tobacco grower in Capua Vetere, near the city of Caserta, offered him work in his fields. “I woke up at 4am. We started at 6am,” he said. “The work was exhausting. It was really hot inside the greenhouse and we had no contracts.”

    Alex, from Ghana, another minor who worked in the same area, said he was forced to work 10 to 12 hours a day. “If you are tired or not, you are supposed to work”, otherwise “you lose your job”.

    Workers complained of having to work without a break until lunchtime.

    Alex said he wasn’t given gloves or work clothes to protect him from the nicotine contained in the leaves, or from pesticides. He also said that when he worked without gloves he felt “some sickness like fever, like malaria, or headaches”.

    Moisture on a tobacco leaf from dew or rain may contain as much nicotine as the content of six cigarettes, one study found. Direct contact can lead to nicotine poisoning.

    Most of the migrants said they had worked without gloves. Low wages prevented them from buying their own.

    At the end of the working day, said Sekou, 27, from Guinea, who has worked in the tobacco fields since 2016: “I could not get my hands in the water to take a shower because my hands were cut”.

    Olivier added: “I had pain all over my body, especially on my hands. I had to take painkillers every day.”

    The migrants said they were usually hired on roundabouts along the main roads through Caserta province.

    Workers who spoke to the Guardian said they didn’t have contracts and were paid half the minimum wage. Most earned between €20 and €30 a day, rather than the minimum of €42.

    Thomas, from Ghana, said: “I worked last year in the tobacco fields near Cancello, a village near Caserta. They paid me €3 per hour. The work was terrible and we had no contracts”.

    The Guardian found African workers who were paid €3 an hour, while Albanians, Romanians or Italians, were paid almost double.

    “I worked with Albanians. They paid the Albanians €50 a day,” (€5 an hour), says Didier. “They paid me €3 per hour. That’s why I asked them for a raise. But when I did, they never called back.”

    Tammaro Della Corte, leader of the General Confederation of Italian Workers labour union in Caserta, said: “Unfortunately, the reality of the work conditions in the agricultural sector in the province of Caserta, including the tobacco industry, is marked by a deep labour exploitation, low wages, illegal contracts and an impressive presence of the caporalato [illegal hiring], including extortion and blackmailing of the workers.

    “We speak to thousands of workers who work in extreme conditions, the majority of whom are immigrants from eastern Europe, north Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. A large part of the entire supply chain of the tobacco sector is marked by extreme and alarming working conditions.”

    Between 405,000 and 500,000 migrants work in Italy’s agricultural sector, about half the total workforce. According to the Placido Rizzotto Observatory, which investigates worker conditions in the agricultural sector, 80% of those working without contracts are migrants.

    Multinational tobacco companies have invested billions of euros in the industry in Italy. Philip Morris alone has invested €1bn over the past five years and has investment plans on the same scale for the next two years. In 2016, the company invested €500m to open a factory near Bologna to manufacture smokeless cigarettes. A year later, another €500m investment was announced to expand production capacity at the factory.

    British American Tobacco declared investments in Italy of €1bn between 2015 and 2019.

    Companies have signed agreements with the agriculture ministry and farmers’ associations.

    Since 2011, Philip Morris, which buys the majority of tobacco in Campania, has signed agreements to purchase tobacco directly from ONT Italia.

    Philip Morris buys roughly 70% of the Burley tobacco variety produced in Campania. Approximately 900 farmers work for companies who supply to Philip Morris.

    In 2018, Burley and Virginia Bright varieties constituted 90% of Italian tobacco production. About 15,000 tons of the 16,000 tons of Italian Burley are harvested in Campania.

    In 2015, Philip Morris signed a deal with Coldiretti, the main association of entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector, to buy 21,000 tons of tobacco a year from Italian farmers, by investing €500m, until 2020.

    Gennarino Masiello, president of Coldiretti Campania and national vice-president, said the deal included a “strong commitment to respect the rights of employees, banning phenomena like caporalato and child labour”.

    Steps have been taken to improve workers’ conditions in the tobacco industry.

    A deal agreed last year between the Organizzazione Interprofessionale Tabacco Italia (OITI), a farmers’ organisation, and the ministry of agriculture resulted in the introduction of a code of practice in the tobacco industry, including protecting the health of workers, and a national strategy to reduce the environmental impact.

    But last year, the OITI was forced to acknowledge that “workplace abuses often have systemic causes” and that “long-term solutions to address these issues require the serious and lasting commitment of all the players in the supply chain, together with that of the government and other parties involved”.

    Despite the code, the migrants interviewed reported no change in their working conditions.

    In 2017, Philip Morris signed an agreement with the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) to hire 20 migrants as trainees within the Campania tobacco producing companies, to “support their exit from situations of serious exploitation”. Migrants on the six-month trainee scheme receive a monthly salary of €600 from Philip Morris.

    But the scheme appears to have little impact.

    Kofi, Sekou and Hassan were among 20 migrants hired under the agreement. Two of them said their duties and treatment were no different from other workers. At the end of the six months, Sekou said he was not hired regularly, but continued to work with no contract and low wages, in the same company that signed the agreement with Philip Morris.

    “If I didn’t go to work they wouldn’t pay me. I was sick, they wouldn’t pay me,” he said.

    In a statement, Huub Savelkouls, chief sustainability officer at Philip Morris International, said the company is committed to ensuring safety and fair conditions in its supply chain and had not come across the issues raised.

    “Working with the independent, not-for-profit organisation, Verité, we developed PMI’s Agricultural Labor Practices (ALP) code that currently reaches more than 350,000 farms worldwide. Farmers supplying PMI in Italy are contractually bound to respect the standards of the ALP code. They receive training and field teams conduct farm visits twice a month to monitor adherence to the ALP code,” he said.

    “Recognising the complex situation with migrant workers in Italian agriculture, PMI has taken supplementary steps to gain more visibility and prevent potential issues through a mechanism that provides direct channels for workers to raise concerns, specifically funding an independent helpline and direct engagement programme with farm workers.”

    On the IOM scheme, he said: “This work has been recognised by stakeholders and elements are being considered for continued action.”

    Simon Cleverly, group head of corporate affairs at British American Tobacco, said: “We recognise that agricultural supply chains and global business operations, by their nature, can present significant rights risks and we have robust policies and process in place to ensure these risks are minimised. Our supplier code of conduct sets out the minimum contractual standards we expect of all our suppliers worldwide, and specifically requires suppliers to ensure that their operations are free from unlawful migrant labour. This code also requires suppliers to provide all workers, including legal migrant workers, with fair wages and benefits, which comply with applicable minimum wage legislation. To support compliance, we have due diligence in place for all our third-party suppliers, including the industry-wide sustainable tobacco programme (STP).”

    He added: “Where we are made aware of alleged human rights abuses, via STP, our whistleblowing procedure or by any other channel, we investigate and where needed, take remedial action.”

    Simon Evans, group media relations manager at Imperial Tobacco, said: “Through the industry-wide sustainable tobacco programme we work with all of our tobacco suppliers to address good agricultural practices, improve labour practices and protect the environment. We purchase a very small amount of tobacco from the Campania region via a local third party supplier, with whom we are working to understand and resolve any issues.”

    ONT said technicians visited tobacco producers at least once a month to monitor compliance with contract and production regulations. It said it would not tolerate any kind of labour exploitation and would follow up the Guardian investigation.

    “If they [the abuses] happen to be attributable to farms associated with ONT, we will take the necessary measures, not only for the violation of the law, but above all to protect all our members who operate with total honesty and transparency.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/may/31/i-had-pain-all-over-my-body-italys-tainted-tobacco-industry?CMP=share_b
    #tabac #industrie_du_tabac #exploitation #travail #migrations #Caserta #Italie #néo-esclavagisme #Pouilles #Campania

    ping @albertocampiphoto @marty @reka @isskein

  • #Campania. Con i nuovi bandi, l’esodo è forzato. Chiudono le
    esperienze positive e si aprono spazi alla mala accoglienza

    Anche in Campania, le novità sono arrivate con i nuovi bandi. Nuovi bandi che, va sottolineato, sono stati emanati dalle Prefetture prima che entrasse in vigore il decreto Salvini, ma che non si sono comunque fatti scrupolo di anticipare le modalità e le logiche annunciate dal ministro dell’Interno. “Si sono allineate prima ancora che ce ne fosse bisogno” commenta amaramente Gennaro Avallone, attivista della campagna LasciateCIEntrare. Anche in Campania, quindi, una parte dei piccoli #Cas è stata chiusa e gli ospiti dirottati su strutture più grandi, anche a 50 o 60 chilometri di distanza. “In provincia di #Salerno, ad esempio, i migranti che risiedevano nei centri dell’#Agro_Nocerino-Sarnese sono stati spostati verso la #Piana_del_Sele con un preavviso non superiore alle 24 o al massimo 36 ore. Ho visitato personalmente un centro a Pagani, piccolo Comune dell’Agro Nocerino e ho conosciuto persone che erano in quel comune da oltre due anni e che già lavoravano e cominciavano a intascare un piccolo reddito, sia pure inferiore a quanto richiesto per rimanere in accoglienza. Come faranno a raggiungere il posto di lavoro ora? Un amico pakistano di nome Mohamed frequentava l’università a Napoli. Dall’Agro Nocerino-Sarnese arrivava in città col treno, ma adesso ha grandi difficoltà per farlo. Ma anche senza citare questi casi, sappiamo tutti che la vita quotidiana è fatta di relazioni e anche di piccole cose. C’è chi, molto più banalmente, aveva investito in una scuola guida e ora non può più seguire le lezioni”.

    Qualcuno è riuscito a rimanere o a ritornare nei luoghi in cui viveva grazie all’aiuto di amici o della rete di attivisti. Ma per i più è stato un esodo forzato.

    “Proprio in previsione di questa situazione, il 26 gennaio, abbiamo organizzato una manifestazione a Salerno che ha visto la partecipazione di circa un migliaio di cittadini e di migranti. Il primo punto delle richieste manifestate, quello che in maniera più semplice si sarebbe potuto affrontare, era proprio il mantenimento delle piccole strutture dislocate nel territorio ma la Prefettura non ci ha voluto ascoltare. Eppure l’esperienza dei Cas e degli sprar della provincia di Salerno non è stata così totalmente negativa, pure se ha presentato situazioni pessime sotto diversi punti di vista ed altre che si sarebbero potute migliorare – continua Gennaro. In particolare, stava dando buoni frutti il Cas per nuclei familiari nel comune di Piaggine che dava assistenza a 22 persone migranti, chiuso recentemente”.

    Capitolo a parte per #Caserta dove si è costituita un’originale alleanza sociale, che comprende, ad esempio, la collaborazione tra le suore Orsoline e le attiviste e gli attivisti del Centro sociale Ex Canapificio legati al locale movimento Rifugiati e migranti. “Questa alleanza si è tradotta nella gestione dello Sprar, in cui la rete costituita attorno al centro sociale ha fatto da punto di riferimento a centinaia di richiedenti asilo, con l’organizzazione di un’accoglienza diffusa che ha evitato grandi strutture concentrate ma si è organizzata attraverso piccoli appartamenti dislocati in tutta la città. Questa esperienza diffusa ha aiutato a combattere anche su fronti difficili come lo sfruttamento della prostituzione e quello lavorativo, specialmente agricolo. Come già avvenuto per Riace, anche in questa situazione è arrivata puntuale una inchiesta della magistratura che il 7 febbraio ha accusato alcune persone dell’Ex Canapificio di associazione a delinquere finalizzata a truffa aggravata. Il 12 marzo, poi, come sappiamo, anche il centro sociale è stato sgomberato dalle forze dell’ordine”. Tuttavia, lo sprar di Caserta comunque continua a funzionare, sebbene il bando scadrà quest’anno “e non abbiamo ancora idea di cosa farà l’amministrazione comunale”.

    In una regione che ha conosciuto la vergogna della pessima accoglienza, come abbiamo ricostruito anche nel libro Il sistema di accoglienza in Italia. Esperienze, resistenze, segregazione, del quale con l’editore Orthotes stiamo per pubblicare la seconda edizione aggiornata con gli effetti del Decreto Salvini, non ci possiamo permettere una gestione che continua a subordinare i bisogni e i percorsi di inclusione sociale delle persone richiedenti asilo alle necessità della propaganda o della cieca burocrazia”, conclude Gennaro Avallone, evidenziando la necessità, in ogni caso, di pensare ad un superamento radicale di questo sistema, assumendo la necessità di far ripartire in Italia una politica universalistica per la casa.

    https://www.lasciatecientrare.it/campania-con-i-nuovi-bandi-lesodo-e-forzato-chiudono-le-esperienze
    #décret_salvini #decreto_salvini #decreto_sicurezza #Italie #fermeture #conséquences #asile #migrations #réfugiés #hébergement #SPRAR #accueil