Italian authorities have arrested 10 people in Caltanissetta, Sicily, on charges of exploiting foreign farmworkers who were allegedly forced to work extenuating shifts for less than four euros per hour.
Security police on September 23 placed eight people under house arrest and jailed two others for allegedly exploiting foreign farmhands, forcing them to work in the fields in exhausting shifts that were paid less than four euros an hour.
The suspects, including six foreigners and four Italian citizens, have been charged with illicit intermediation and labor exploitation.
They are accused of belonging to a criminal organization that allegedly recruited foreign workers, mainly Moroccans, to exploit them in the fields.
'Daily taxes' to transport workers
According to investigators, some land owners and farmers in the provinces of Caltanissetta and Agrigento, in Sicily, allegedly hired or used foreign workers recruited by the organization, forcing them to work in conditions that endangered their safety and health, taking advantage of their situation of need.
During the investigation carried out by DIGOS (security police) discovered that the recruited foreigners allegedly worked an average of eight to nine hours per day for a daily salary of €30/35, which was cut by €5 to 10 for a "daily tax" allegedly imposed by drivers to cover transport costs, investigative sources said.
The drivers, members of the organization, allegedly demanded the 'tax' to take workers to the fields and for the maintenance of their vehicles, according to the same sources.
Workers threatened to lose employment
According to investigators, workers almost never used protection and were often forced to work on Sunday. Farmhands were also controlled during the day by the head of the organization, or by its members, or by land owners, with the threat that they would be fired if they didn't carry out their job well enough, investigative sources said.
In several instances, workers who didn't feel well or needed to take time off for urgent family reasons were forced to remain on the job until the end of the work day or to resume their activity with the threat that they would lose any future employment opportunity, sources close to the probe explained.