Illegalised day labourers: And we are part of the business

Die Unterkünfte der Wanderarbeiter

Shelters of the day labourers

Had some tomatoes and mozzarella for breakfast, salad for lunch and Pasta al’Arrabiata with friends in the evening? That is not bumptious or tastes like blood diamonds. But only few know where the red, round tomatoes come from, and under which conditions they were grown.

Conditions of living and working of illegalised day labourers

Sicily is sun-kissed, the land – due to past volcanic eruptions – rich in nutrients. Sicily is predestined for farming. Alongside the roads range white caterpillars: long greenhouses covered with white plastic sheets, beneath vegetables of any kind. These vegetables are harvested by day labourers, people who once crossed the Mediterranean Sea hoping for a secure life without war and persecution and wishing for a prospect.

The labourers earn less than 35 Euros a day from which they have to pay so called placement officers. They cannot be sure how regularly they are allowed to work. The wage depends on services rendered. Mustafa tells us that he has to pick 200 kilograms of tomatoes to earn 6 Euros. It is the employer who weighs in the harvest and who operates the scales. In case one of the day labourers complain about the process there is little hope of being allowed back to work some time soon.

The precarious working conditions, the low income and the life in illegality are forcing the day labourers in a situation which is hard to comprehend. An endless and bumpy path leads to the place where the illegalised day labourers live. In busy times, up to 200 migrant workers are living here in a camp of tents and in the open, without running water and electricity. Now, after the fields are harvested only a dozen men are living in the camp. The others moved on with the picking season of produce cultivated elsewhere, knowing that the living conditions won’t be any different.

Ein Bett unter freiem Himmel zeugt von den desaströsen Lebensbedingungen

A bed in the open testifies to the precarious living conditions

Acess to this places and the trust of the day labourers has to be earned. Padre Carlo D’Antoni, the human rights defender from Siracusa is active here for a long time. He supports the camps with supplies, tents, sleeping bags and clothing. When we ask him what the migrants working on the fields do in the winter season he replies: “They suffer.”

The relief supplies of our recent convoy is intended for the most part for the migrants living in these camps. The tents collected by  Hanseatic Help e.V., the supplies that we bought and many other things are needed desperately here.


Article and photos: Johanne

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