Terragiusta. Campaign Against the Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Agriculture in Italy

Project location: ITALY
Project start date: October 2013 - Project end date: October 2014
Project number: 2013-019
Beneficiary: Medici per i Diritti Umani (MEDU)

Time span for this report: from January to October 2015

Based on the experience of Terragiusta I, the Terragiusta II project activity of health care and social and legal guidance are implemented in Calabria, where the conditions of exploitation of migrant workers in agriculture are even more serious and deeply-rooted than in other areas. The team of MEDU will be present in the Plain of Gioia Tauro (in particular, in the municipalities of Rosarno, Taurianova, Rizziconi, Gioia Tauro) during all the citrus harvesting season. The activities take place in isolated areas far from urban centres and characterized by a strong marginalization. Through a mobile clinic a team composed by a coordinator, a doctor and two cultural mediators offers medical assistance and socio-legal guidance to the migrant workers living in the Plain. The team operates in coordination with MEDU staff in Rome and in cooperation with the network of local associations developed during Terragiusta I (Emergency, Drosi Caritas, SOS Rosarno, CGIL).

From January to March 2015, the team provided health and social assistance and counselling in the living settlements and in proximity of the workplaces: a makeshifts camp in San Ferdinando, an occupied factory in the same area and some abandoned houses in the centre of the Plain (Taurianova and Rizziconi area). In three months the mobile clinic visited 213 patients (total: 318 visits). Among them, a young Ghanaian boy with psychotic problems was able to start a psychiatric therapy and to obtained an accommodation in a reception center of Rosarno thanks to the intervention of the mobile clinic team. The field team also recorded data about living, working and health conditions of the patients through a detailed questionnaire paying particular attention to the detection of epidemiological data, the relationship between working and health conditions (occupational diseases), legal status, living conditions, access to health care (also in comparison with the local population).

In addition to the health assistance field activities, the team provided to beneficiaries social and health guidance. This activity required mapping and contacting local health services in order to be able to send patients for medical examinations and to foster the development of good practices. Patients with complex health problems such patients who faced obstacles in the procedures for access to care have been accompanied by MEDU team to hospitals and clinics and public offices.

Thanks to an agreement with the ASP of Reggio Calabria, MEDU team operated once a week in the clinics for irregular migrants (STP clinics) in Rosarno where 61 patients has been visited and interviewed. Starting from April, the team will operate also in the STP clinic in Gioia Tauro. A detailed report of this activity has been delivered to the Local Health Unit including analysis and proposals to overcome the most relevant critical issues.

In order to develop advocacy activities, MEDU staff held institutional meetings with the Reggio Calabria Prefecture (Local Office of the Ministry of Interior), the local municipalities (Gioia Tauro, Taurianova, Rizziconi and Rosarno) and the Local Public Health Unit of the Province. Information activities addressed to national and local public opinion will be carried out in the next months through a press conference and a detailed report to be presented at the end of the activities in Calabria.

In April and May 2015, MEDU continued to implement the activities of health care, social and legal guidance started in Calabria, in the Plain of Gioia Tauro (in particular, in the municipalities of Rosarno, Taurianova, Rizziconi, Gioia Tauro) at the beginning of the citrus harvesting season. The activities took place in isolated areas far from urban centres and characterized by a strong marginalization, as described in the previous report. From the beginning of the activities in January 2015, MEDU has visited 356 migrants (mainly male with an average age of 29 years) in 570 medical examinations considering first (356), second (119), third (57), fourth (26) and fifth (11) accesses to the mobile clinic. Most of the patients were from Mali (30%), Senegal (17%), Ghana (13%), Gambia (12%), Burkina Faso (11%) and Ivory Coast (8%) and had arrived in Italy on average four years before. In particular, 24% of the patients had arrived in 2013, 20% in 2011, 16% in 2014, 8% in 2012. The remaining (32%) declared they had arrived in Italy more than five years ago. 47% of migrants had a poor knowledge of Italian language, 45% a good or sufficient while 8% didn't have any knowledge. Regarding legal status, 90% of the migrants had a regular permit of stay: 48% for humanitarian reasons and 12% for international protection (subsidiary protection and asylum). This means that 60% of the migrants were recognized international protection while 11% had a permit of stay for work reasons. Illegal immigrants were 10% while12% were undergoing an appeal against the denial of international protection. 54% of the migrants with a residence permit was registered in the National Health System, thus in possession of the health card, while 44% did not have it. Among the migrants without a residence permit, almost all of them didn't know how to access the health system and didn't have the ENI/STP card (an anonymous card which allows illegal migrants to access primary and secondary care). With respect to living conditions, 97% of migrants were living in precarious settlements (shanty towns, makeshift camps, ruins of empty buildings), 64% used to sleep on beds or cots and 36% on mattresses on the floor or even on the floor. Almost all the migrants (97%) had no access to drinking water or hot water. The same percentage had no access to electricity. Nearly half of the migrants (48%) did not have access to toilets and showers while 48% could only access the insufficient services available in the tent city of San Ferdinando. Regarding the working condition, the majority of employees had an employment contract (88%) but most of them did not know whether they would receive a payslip and social security contributions. Workers declared they used to work on average 5 days a week, about 8 hours a day. 40% also reported to not have a break during the working day. The average daily wage is 26 €. The wage is agreed on a daily basis (25/30 euro) or a piece rate pay (1 euro per box of tangerines, 0.45 to 0.50 euro per box of oranges). 60% of workers said they had to resort to an illegal recruiter of day labourers ("caporale") in order to work.

From the 15th of July to the end of September the mobile clinic operated in Basilicata, in the the Vulture-Alto Bradano area, where a significant number of migrants is employed in the tomato harvesting. In two and an half months, MEDU mobile clinic visited most of the farmsteads located in the municipalities of Venosa, Lavello, Palazzo San Gervasio and Montemilone. The team visited 377 migrants - mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa - in 577 medical examinations, including first (377), second (143), third (45) and fourth (12) accesses. In order to offer also information and guidance on how to access local health and social services, MEDU drafted a guide called "Carta dei Servizi" (charter of the services) with information on services, associations, local institutions present in the area. Moreover, in order to foster the sustainability of the project, a network was created including local associations and trade unions: USB - Trade Union, Methodist Church, Caritas, Basilicata Migrants Observatory association, "Out of the Ghetto" association). During the past season, Basilicata's regional administration set up a Task Force with the specific purpose of dealing with the serious lack of support and reception facilities for seasonal workers. Despite the opening of two reception centres for seasonal workers in Palazzo San Gervasio and Venosa in fact, the living and working conditions of the over 1.000 foreign labourers, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa, remain critical with migrants still living for most of the season in dramatic hygienic condition in abandoned farmsteads with no water, electricity and lavatories. 88.5% of agricultural workers, of which 95% were regularly present in Italy, had an employment contract. Nevertheless, according to the testimonies collected by MEDU, 92% of the workers with a regular employment contract was still hired through an illegal recruiter who withholds 0.50 euro for every crate of tomatoes filled. The majority of the migrants also claimed not to know how many working days were registered by their Italian employers for contributions and if they would received a payslip. In absence of an effective matching of demand and supply of labour as well as of trenchant controls and indicators establishing the effective number of working days needed for a certain area, the mere existence of regular employment contracts does not ensure by itself the effective protection of labourers rights or decent living conditions.

Advocacy and information activities:

1) October 1st: MEDU launched a brief press release with an analysis of the data collected (www.mediciperidirittiumani.org/campagna-del-pomodoro-in-basilicata-aumenta-il-numero-dei-contratti-ma-il-92-dei-braccianti-ricorre-ancora-al-caporale/).

2) From the 22th to the 25th of August MEDU organized with other associations (Radio Ghetto, Io ci sto, Osservatorio Migranti Basilicata, Fuori dal ghetto) the "Out of the Ghetto Tour": the singer Sandro Joyeux (http://www.mrfew.com/project/sandro-joyeux/) was in concert in three big ghettos in Apulia and Basilicata (ghetto of Rignano, Borgo Mezzanone and Boreano) and in the main square of Venosa (the city closest to the ghetto of Boreano). Concerts allowed to inform and sensitize the public about the severe labour exploitation and the life conditions of people living in the ghettos. Many of them participated to the concert as public or as performers. The tour was accompanied by the photographer Gabriele Guida (http://www.agrpress.it/attualita/braccianti-la-musica-fuori-dal-ghetto-4547).

3) MEDU together with other associations was involved in the production of the short video "Pomodori rossi, lavoratori neri" ("Red tomatoes, black workers", available at https://youtu.be/h6WR8SKX5ik) shot by the theatre director Valerio Gatto and other members of the project "Black Reality" (http://blackreality.it/).

4) On April 9th MEDU presented the report "TerraIngiusta" ("Unfair Land", available at http://www.mediciperidirittiumani.org/terraingiusta-presentazione-rapporto/) , an in depth analysis of working and living conditions of foreign agricultural workers, based on datas and evidences collected during the project "Terragiusta". The report was presented to the public in a press conference at the Foreign Press Association in Rome. (http://www.mediciperidirittiumani.org/en/terraingiusta-unfair-land/).

The report was also presented in the following venues:

1) April 09th - Rome - Conference "Severe labour explotation" organized by the association Parsec at Palazzo Chigi;
2) May 5th - University of Cosenza (Calabria): presentation of the report during the lesson on "Italian and International Migration Law" by the professor Donatella Loprieno, in collaboration with the sociologist Alessandra Corrado;
3) May 7th - "Frantoio delle idee", Cinquefrondi (Calabria), meeting with the civil society in a social centre in the province of Reggio Calabria;
4) May 9th - Nicotera (Calabria): public meeting with local civil society;
5) May 13th - Reggio Calabria (Calabria): meeting with the Prefecture;
6) May 26th - Reggio Calabria (Calabria): press conference at the Municipality of Reggio Calabria with the Association Libera. Special focus on data and information concerning activities in Calabria;
7) June 1st - Brussels: MEDU was invited to the conference "Severe labour exploitation in the EU" organized by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) at the Council of the EU in Brussels, where the English version of the report was disseminated;
8) June 4th - Abano Terme (PD): meeting about labour exploitation at the Festival Interculturale 6 gradi organized by the Khorakhanè association with Andrea Gambillara (Flai/CIGL Padova), Prof. Luciano Greco (University of Padova - Economy department), Marco Lombardo, (Coordinator of Libera association in Padova);
9) June 2nd (morning), Brindisi (Apulia): press conference at the MEDU clinic for migrants;
10) June 2nd (afternoon), Nardò (Apulia): presentation of the report in a public meeting organized by the associations Arci and Diritti a Sud with the head of the municipality of Nardò;
11) June 16th, Salerno (Campania): presentation of the report in a public meeting organized by the association Arci and CGIL (with the participation of Anselmo Botte, representative of the CGIL trade union in Salerno);
12) June 30th - Milan, EXPO: presentation of the report in a public meeting organized by Slow Food International;
13) October 3rd, Perugia (Umbria): presentation of the report at the festival Fa la cosa giusta with the head of the CGIL trade union in Umbria.
14) October 13th and 15th - Venice: presentation of the report at the conference "Lavoro, diritti sviluppo sociale" organized by the Municipality of Venice.

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