Six years a slave: Indian farm workers exploited in Italy

3 weeks ago 21

SABAUDIA, Italy: When Balbir Singh refers to his ordeal, helium uses the Italian connection "macello", which astir translates arsenic "mess" - but it is hardly capable to convey what the migrant Indian workplace idiosyncratic has endured.

For six years, helium lived successful what tin lone beryllium described arsenic slave-like conditions tending cattle successful the state of Latina, a agrarian country southbound of Rome that is location to tens of thousands of Indian migrant workers similar him.

"I was moving 12 to 13 hours a day, including Sundays, with nary holidays, nary rest," Singh told AFP.

The workplace proprietor paid him 100 to 150 euros (US$120 to US$175) a month, helium said, which amounts to little than 50 cents an hour.

The ineligible minimum for workplace workers is astir 10 euros an hour.

Singh was rescued by a constabulary raid connected Mar 17, 2017 aft appealing for assistance via Facebook and WhatsApp to section Indian assemblage leaders and an Italian rights activist.

Officers recovered him surviving successful a caravan, with nary gas, blistery h2o oregon electricity, and eating the leftovers that his brag either threw successful the bin oregon gave to chickens and pigs.

Singh had to lavation successful the stables, with the aforesaid hosepipe helium utilized to cleanable cattle, and it was made wide to him helium should not complain.

"When I recovered a lawyer acceptable to assistance me, (the owner) told maine ... 'I'll termination you, I'll excavation a hole, propulsion you successful it, and capable it up' ... helium had a gun, I saw it," helium recalled.

Singh said helium was beaten up a mates of times, and had his individuality papers taken away.

His erstwhile leader is present connected proceedings for labour exploitation, portion Singh is surviving successful a concealed determination for fearfulness of retribution.


Singh's communicative is extreme, but it fits into a wider representation of brutal exploitation of migrant workplace labourers successful the Agro Pontino - the Pontine Marshes, the plain astir Latina - and elsewhere successful Italy.

The UN's peculiar rapporteur connected modern forms of slavery estimated successful 2018 that much than 400,000 cultivation workers successful Italy hazard being exploited and astir 100,000 apt look "inhumane conditions".

Last month, a 27-year-old from Mali collapsed and died successful the southeastern Apulia portion aft moving a time successful the fields successful temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

In the Agro Pontino, a large hub for greenhouse farming, floriculture and buffalo mozzarella production, Indians person been a beingness since the mid-1980s.

They enactment connected onshore drained from marshes successful the 1930s, 1 of the biggest nationalist works projects enacted nether dictator Benito Mussolini.

Sociologist Marco Omizzolo, the rights activistic who helped escaped Singh, says betwixt 25,000 and 30,000 Indians unrecorded successful the Agro Pontino, mostly Sikhs from the Punjab region.

Under an amerciable but well-established system, they unrecorded nether the thumb of "caporali", the pack masters who enlistee workplace labourers connected behalf of onshore owners.

Typically, they are offered contracts but past are paid for lone a fraction of their work.

"You whitethorn enactment 28 days, but they'll people lone 4 connected your wage slip, truthful astatine the extremity of the period you whitethorn get 200, 300 euros," Omizzolo told AFP.

"Formally, it is each by the book," helium added.

The world is acold grimmer, arsenic shown by a caller constabulary probe that offered caller grounds of wide opioid maltreatment among the Indian community.

That cognition led to the apprehension of a doc successful the formation municipality of Sabaudia. He was accused of illegally prescribing much than 1,500 boxes of Depalgos, a almighty painkiller containing Oxycodone and fixed to crab patients, to 222 Indian workplace workers.

"The cause presumably allowed them to enactment longer successful the fields by relieving symptom and fatigue," Latina main authoritative Giuseppe De Falco told AFP.

The UN's peculiar   rapporteur connected  modern  forms of slavery estimated successful  2018 that much  than The UN's peculiar rapporteur connected modern forms of slavery estimated successful 2018 that much than 400,000 cultivation workers successful Italy hazard being exploited and astir 100,000 apt look "inhumane conditions" AFP/Filippo MONTEFORTE


The occupation of exploitation of workplace workers has not gone unnoticed successful parliament. It was nether an anti-caporali instrumentality passed successful 2016 that Singh's leader was prosecuted.

But unions accidental determination are inactive excessively fewer checks and labour inspectors to enforce the instrumentality properly.

Sociologist Omizzolo, who works with the Eurispes deliberation tank, spent years researching workplace labour maltreatment successful the Latina country - immoderate of it undercover.

He lived for 3 months successful Bella Farnia, a colony mostly occupied by Indians, moving incognito successful the fields.

He, too, present lives nether constabulary protection, aft respective decease threats.

In 2019, helium was fixed a knighthood by President Sergio Mattarella successful designation of his "courageous work".

In 2016, the sociologist was instrumental, on with the Flai Cgil commercialized union, successful organising the first-ever onslaught of the Agro Pontino's Indian workers.

Since then, their hourly wage has risen from 3 euros oregon little per hr to astir 5 euros - though this is inactive lone fractional the ineligible minimum.

Omizzolo recognises the moving conditions are inactive acold from ideal. But the protest, helium said, made the Indians recognize that "it pays to combat for your rights". 

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