Sicilian police has arrested two men accused of extreme exploitation of migrant workers on Thursday. The suspects allegedly paid workers just three euros an hour to work in the fields for up to 12 hours a day.
The 68-year-old father and 35-year-old son are now under house attest on charges of aggravated labor exploitation and collusion. Their two vineyards and olive grove in the area of Marsala in southern Italy have been seized.
Exploitation ongoing for at least three years
A six-month-long investigation, coordinated by prosecutors in Marsala, found that the two men forced the immigrants not only to work for them but also for farmers in the areas of Mazara del Vallo and Marsala, investigators said. Nearly every morning, they picked them up by car and took them to the fields to harvest, pick olives, fruit or vegetables.
Father and son negotiated their hourly wage, the number of hours they would work and the food they would get with the immigrants and then decided which workers to select. Those who made too many demands on the wage or food were immediately rejected, according to the investigating team.
Suspects asked workers to call them 'masters'
The suspects allegedly made the workers call them 'master' and named the migrants after the days of the week, like Friday in Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.
The immigrants were selected from a hut where they lived in very poor hygienic conditions near Marsala or were directly recruited from migrant hosting centers, according to investigative sources.
Three euros an hour, stale bread for lunch
For lunch and dinner, the workers - some of whom had legal residence permits while others were undocumented migrants - were allegedly fed stale bread and water.
Wiretaps and video footage from hidden cameras were key in the investigation. According to investigators, the suspects had been exploiting the immigrants for at least three years, forcing them to work exhausting shifts that started at 5 am. They were usually paid just three euros per hour.