A police operation against labor exploitation in the countryside near Treviso, Italy | Photo: ANSA/Ufficio Stampa Carabinieri
A police operation against labor exploitation in the countryside near Treviso, Italy | Photo: ANSA/Ufficio Stampa Carabinieri

Police in northeastern Italy have arrested two people accused of exploiting dozens of Pakistani migrant farmworkers. The laborers were reportedly underpaid, had to work without any coronavirus protections, and forced to pay for rooms in extremely run-down buildings.

Police in the Veneto region arrested two Pakistani nationals on Wednesday. They are accused of exploitating dozens of fellow Pakistani nationals.

An investigation into their operation was conducted between October and February after checks at agricultural businesses in the provinces around the cities of Treviso, Pordenone and Udine -- near Venice, in northeastern Italy -- led to the discovery of a business headquartered in Cessalto (Treviso) that recruited Pakistani farmworkers.

Migrants underpaid, overworked

The two suspects are the owner of the Cessalto business, as well as the person who allegedly recruited the farmworkers and transported them to farms.

Workers were reportedly only paid half the wages foreseen by regional and national contracts.

The suspects also allegedly charged the migrants €100 for a bed inside a run-down building and €50 for lunches every month.

The workers were housed in unheated, precarious lodgings with mold and damaged windows and doors, where the toilet facilities were in extremely bad condition, investigators said. The victims were reportedly woken at dawn and taken to farms where they had to work until late in the evening.

No anti-COVID measures

According to investigators, the suspects did not provide safety features required by law for workplaces; they did not take any measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Police also allege that social security contributions were paid only for a small number of the workers.

Veneto regional councillor Federico Caner thanked the authorities following the arrests. "I would like to thank the police from the Venice labor protection group, the soldiers from Treviso and the investigating bodies for their patient, long work that led to the discovery of an agricultural business legally headquartered in Cessalto (Treviso) that recruited Pakistani citizens to use as manpower in area firms that exploited them," he said. He continued: "This is proof that in Veneto there are checks and they work: labor exploitation plagues our rural areas as well and we will continue to watch this closely."

 

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