Twelve people were killed in an accident in Lesina, in the southern province of Foggia, on August 6, 2018. Some of the victims were migrant farmworkers who were travelling in a van on their way back from the fields | Photo: ANSA/FRANCO CAUTILLO
Twelve people were killed in an accident in Lesina, in the southern province of Foggia, on August 6, 2018. Some of the victims were migrant farmworkers who were travelling in a van on their way back from the fields | Photo: ANSA/FRANCO CAUTILLO

One year ago, 16 migrant farmworkers in southern Italy died on their way home when their vans were crushed by trucks in two separate incidents. Now, the local prefecture held a conference presenting the measures they are taking against the exploitation of migrant farmworkers.

The Foggia prefecture held a conference titled "Permanent Economic Development and Productive Activity" on August 6. That day was the one-year anniversary of a road accident that caused the death of twelve migrant workers. The goal of the conference was to discuss initiatives aimed at fighting the illegal hiring and exploitation of migrants. 

Foggia prefect Raffaele Grassi said the illegal hiring of migrant farmworkers, a practice known as caporalato, is "an unacceptable form of human exploitation." He said that checks would be intensified on the roads to prevent accidents from happening again, "especially in view of the start of the tomato-harvesting season." 

Two deadly accidents involving tomato trucks

On August 6, 2018, twelve migrants were crushed in the van they were travelling in after having worked 12 hours in the fields. Another four workers died nearby in a similar accident just two days prior. In both cases, trucks carrying tomatoes collided with vans carrying the laborers home after their day's work, the BBC reported.  

To make sure that accidents like this do not happen again, the region of Puglia - which includes the Foggia prefecture - has financed a transport service for farmworkers. 

'A small start ... of fundamental importance'

Puglia Governor Michele Emiliano showed a video at the conference presenting the transport service. "Exactly one year ago [...] 16 farmworkers lost their lives in two terrible road accidents," Emiliano said. "They were travelling in extreme, unacceptable conditions. I want to remember them by showing [...] the first images coming in these very hours from those same fields," he said. "Dozens of seasonal workers are using the transport service financed by the Region of Puglia to reach the fields. This has never happened before. It is a concrete action of legality, safety, and respect for human dignity."

He said that the region had spent a total of 160,000 euros to guarantee a public transport service in the region. "It's a small start, but one of fundamental importance, to fight the dynamics linked to the mafia system of caporalato, by offering a legal alternative for workers and farms," the governor said.

Another proposal discussed at the conference was the creation of job center databases so that farmers can more easily find available workers for their fields.
 

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