Farmworkers harvesting tomatoes | Photo: ANSA/Ciro Fusco/GID
Farmworkers harvesting tomatoes | Photo: ANSA/Ciro Fusco/GID

Fear of the novel coronavirus is growing among farmworkers near Foggia in southern Italy, the association ARCI has reported. A spokesman said that the migrant workers are now "staying in their shacks out of fear of catching COVID-19."

ARCI provincial chief Domenico Rizzi said Saturday that many of the farmworkers in the Foggia area in southern Italy were extremely worried about possibly catching the novel coronavirus, which causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19.

This, Rizzi said, is creating a great deal of difficulty for the harvest of vegetables and fruits in the area. "Migrants constitute most of the manpower in the Foggia area," he said. He noted that there was a large sense of responsibility about the non-European migrants living in Capitanata, an area of the Apulia region that relies heavily on farming. "The workers have halted work and are staying in their shacks out of fear of catching COVID-19," Rizzi said.

No COVID-19 cases yet

However, the ARCI chief noted that, "for the moment there are no known cases of COVID-19 among the migrants."

In addition, he noted, unseasonally cold temperatures had ruined a large part of the harvest in recent days, such as potatoes and asparagus. 

Rizzi said that the migrants were demanding personal protection equipment and that distancing be ensured in the fields during working hours. "To deal with this emergency," he said, "we are trying to organize work teams and take all the precautions necessary."

"Many of the foreigners are getting information to get both the 600-euro government hardship payment and municipal food vouchers," he added.

Grant migrants working papers, says union

On Sunday, the FLAI-CGIL trade union called for all migrants to be granted working papers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The migrants, the union noted, are continuing to work as day laborers without protection to ensure the harvest of fresh produce.

Cameroon-born Jean René Bilongo, coordinator of the Placido Rizzotto observatory of the FLAI-CGIL union, called for a simplified granting of working papers to migrant workers. Especially since, he noted, protests could break out from one moment to the next.

"There are between 160,000 and 180,000 'invisibles' across Italy," Bilongo said. "With working papers these people could have access to medical treatment and social support."

 

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