Migrants in Naples taking part in a farm workers strike, May 21, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/CESARE ABBATE
Migrants in Naples taking part in a farm workers strike, May 21, 2020 | Photo: ANSA/CESARE ABBATE

About 200 migrant farmworkers protested Thursday in the Foggia area of southern Italy against temporary legalization measures brought in by the government. The migrants claimed there is ''a lack of rights and not manpower'' in Italian fields.

The discontent among foreign farmworkers in the fields of the Foggia area has risen recently and led to a protest on Thursday, when a group of about 200 migrants, all of whom live in the two main ghettos of the Foggia area, Borgo Mezzanone and Torretta Antonacci, conducted a protest march through the fields. 

They called it the 'strike of the invisibles' and shouted slogans demanding the ''same wages for the same work." 

The legislative package passed by the pandemic-hit government two weeks ago makes it possible to issue temporary stay permits for some workers including farmhands. However, the measure is only temporary, and permits are valid for six months only. Many migrants note that this makes it impossible to plan for the future.

'No rights in the fields' 

During Thursday's protest, a small delegation led by Aboubakar Soumahoro from the USB union later arrived on a bus to the Foggia prefect's office where another protest was held, with participants waving aubergines, broccoli and artichokes. 

"The government has decided that saving the life of farmworkers is worth the same as saving vegetables, citrus fruit and tomatoes," the union member said. "Rights are lacking in the fields, not manpower." 

Threats of a season of strikes 

"We saw a minister (Bellanova) who cried in these days and said she was worried about us," Soumahoro said. 

"But what we know is that no minister has ever come to see Borgo Mezzanone or Torretta Antonacci, to go to Gioia Tauro, Siberia, or Catanzaro" to see the living and working conditions of the migrants employed in Italy's southern fields, he claimed. "If the government does not respond to us, the harvest season starting from today will be marked by other strikes." 

He added that if the government measures are not changed, a national assembly will be held in July in the fields of the Foggia region in which migrant farmworkers from across the country will take part. 

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