Exploitation of migrants in agriculture, origin Italy and origin Spain. How to make purchases?

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The exploitation of migrants in agriculture is one of the forms of slavery closest to us, as it is linked to ‘Italian origin’ and ‘Spanish origin.’ How to vote No to this system?

Caporalato in Italy is both a historical and current phenomenon. The Rocco Penal Code as early as 1930 provided the penalty, which was updated in late 2016. By taking precautionary measures on farms where crimes are committed. And extending responsibilities to both employers and legal entities involved. (1)

The impunity of agricultural enterprises that benefit from the criminal exploitation of workers, Agrinsieme recalls, (2) is among other things a cause of unfair competition to the detriment of those that instead respect the rules for their protection. The European Commission has indicated ‘a balanced policy strategy’. (3) To be adopted, in theory, through measures to mitigate the phenomenon. And interventions that-through the involvement of social partners-ensure their implementation.

From words to deeds, Fortress Europe remains unable to guarantee the human dignity of those who have reached our shores and are nonetheless victims of further exploitation in EU agricultural supply chains. Who to this day owe their rescue and assistance in the slums of Mediterranean Europe to the much reviled NGOs. Often finding themselves lacking not only decent housing, drinking water and electricity, but also health care. As well as union, ça va sans dir.

The situation in Spain does not seem to be any better. Europe’s greenhouses in Almeria–a sea of plastic, covering 35,000 hectares of land–in turn employ some 40,000 illegal immigrants, sans papier. Who live in conditions equally devoid of dignity, as shown in Arte.tv’s recent French documentary. With the aggravating factor-in Spain, as in Italy-of the exposure of illegal workers to the dangers of pesticide use in the absence of proper training and personal protective equipment.

Fruit and vegetables ‘origin Italy’ and ‘origin Spain’ are therefore not in themselves synonymous with the quality or value of produce from the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Instead, it is often synonymous with exploitation, slavery, and violation of basic human rights. In defiance of, among other things, international conventions agreed upon at the ILO, International Labor Organization, even before European aggregation. (4) Rules exist, but they are systematically violated to the detriment of the least. So what?

ConsumAtors are the only ones, once again, who can change the state of affairs. By means of judicious purchasing choices that divert revenues from the dirty supply chain. How? Without falling into the trap of ‘at all costs’ offers. Rather, taking care to buy fruits and vegetables and canned vegetables that come exclusively from certified supply chains or at least those that guarantee respect for the dignity and rights of workers.

Coop Italy’s ‘Good & Fair’ project is precisely concerned with verifying and certifying the legality of labor at all suppliers of branded products. There are also local initiatives, such as Focsiv’s new solidarity village with Coldiretti in Rosarno, as well as those of various social cooperatives and NGOs in the area. With the goal of integrating the supply chain – from the farm to the fork – under the banner of Value and Respect. Toward work, the environment and people. (5)

No guarantee, no purchase. This is the only way to change. Progress.

Notes

(1) Law 29.10.16 no. 199. Valuable comments by Fabio Ciconte and Stefano Liberti, at http://www.terraonlus.it/component/k2/item/531-la-legge-sul-caporalato-e-il-primo-passo-contro-la-filiera-sporca-del-cibo
(2) Agrinsieme represents companies and cooperatives under Cia, Confagricoltura, Copagri and the Alliance of Agrifood Cooperatives (which in turn includes Agci-Agrital, Fedagri-Confcooperative and Legacoop Agroalimentare)
(3) Communication 24.10.07,‘Strengthening the fight against undeclared work‘, COM(2007) 628
(4) For example, the ILO Convention 19.6.1947 on Labour Inspection in Industry and Commerce is cited.
(5) The Valoro, or ‘Value of Labor,’ in the definition coined by Captain Vito Gulli, an enlightened and revolutionary entrepreneur and former president of Conserve Italia

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.