Jean-René Bilongo, coordinator of the 'Placido Rizzotto Observatory' of the Italian farmworkers' labor union FLAI-CGI | Photo: ANSA
Jean-René Bilongo, coordinator of the 'Placido Rizzotto Observatory' of the Italian farmworkers' labor union FLAI-CGI | Photo: ANSA

The Italian farmworker labor union FLAI-CGIL has denounced that migrants are still working in the fields without adequate protection in the midst of the coronavirus emergency.

Jean-René Bilongo, coordinator of the "Placido Rizzotto Observatory" of the Italian farmworkers' labor union FLAI-CGIL, told news agency ANSA that not enough is being done to help migrant farmworks in Italy amid the coronavirus emergency.

No running water in shanty towns

Many migrant farmworkers live in shanty towns, where, Bilongo said, "they don't even have water to wash their hands." The Italian government has ordered people to stay home to not contract the virus. But, Bilongo said, staying home is impossible for many migrants, "given that they don't have homes."

He said that migrant farmworkers were still working in the fields, for little pay, without adequate protective measures.

"Migrants and asylum seekers who were forced to leave reception centers following the application of the Salvini security decree are still being exploited in the fields as if COVID-19 didn't exist," Bilongo said. "Their fates are of no interest to either the farms or the authorities. And yet more than ever, they are essential for the collective peace."

Migrant workers important for food supply

"The country's lockdown doesn't affect, as it rightfully shouldn't, the stocking of supermarket fruit and vegetable aisles which must meet Italians' needs," Bilongo said. "However... it has been forgotten that in order to have such an availability of fresh products, there's the work and the sweat of an army of tens of thousands of workers. They are largely migrants and asylum seekers condemned to marginalization by the notorious security decrees."

Bilongo said that more must be done to protect migrant workers from exploitation. He also called on authorities to take the health of migrants into account in their plans and to convert "requisition barracks in disuse or similar structures to be able to host migrants."

 

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