Published by Antoinette Siu on 09 May 2012 at 02:25 pm
Earth Focus puts a human face on the environment through under-publicized stories. This program covers a story in an agricultural town of Italy, where labor exploitation is silently faced by thousands of migrants.
In Rosarno, Southern Italy, every winter more than 2,000 migrants make their way to this small agricultural town from different African countries to pick oranges. First covered on Britain’s Ecologist TV, this story on the human cost of orange harvesting talks about the dire conditions suffered by these African migrant workers. Multinational companies like Coca-Cola (Fanta manufacturer) are being challenged to address the growing problem.
The orange trade has led to not only worker exploitation but also the downfall of local processing plants. Because multinational competitors underpay for the orange products, some local orange producers do not even bother harvesting anymore. Realistically, costs required to harvest and transport their oranges in the end yield little to no profit when companies come around to paying these farmers.
Because big companies pay unfair prices, they “force the small processing plants in the area–those that squeeze oranges and produce concentrate–to underpay for [the] raw materials.”
In order to make all this work, orange farmers rely on cheap labor–migrants from Africa and Eastern Europe. The journey that migrants have to endure sometimes lead to death. As one worker describes in the video, “Three people died in our landing.”
They will earn somewhere around 24 Euros for the day’s work and stay in small, run-down camps or slums with no electricity or running water–roofs are at times out of question. These unlivable conditions have moved local authorities to establish temporary refugee camps to house some of the migrants.
At present, Italian authorities are also working on improving those living conditions. Seasonal homes and a greater number of accommodations are part of the discussion.
Still, winters continue to bring in masses of migrants looking for work, but the problem extends beyond labor exploitation. Some workers wanting to return home are virtually trapped with no money or documents.
Diallo, from Guinea, tells the reporter, “[This is] apartheid, colonisation, silent colonisation, silent slavery. There’s no future.”
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