human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Call to respect migrant farm workers’ rights

the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to overhaul the EU agricultural system

Caritas Europa joins the call to defend the rights of migrant farm workers, amid fear of food supply shortages in corona times.

For many years, Caritas Europa and its member organisations have denounced the exploitation of undocumented migrant workers in the agricultural sector, picking strawberries or oranges under abysmal working conditions.

The COVID-19 crisis and lockdown measures are tremendously impacting food supply chains throughout Europe and putting the spotlight on how acutely the EU’s agricultural system depends on migrant workers. Now that many of them have returned to their home countries, or cannot anymore access the fields due to travel restrictions, vast amounts of fruits and vegetables are at risk of being left unpicked.

In addition, thousands of migrant farm workers – both EU and non-EU nationals – are living in shacks and unsanitary settlements, where observing physical distancing is impossible and where the pandemic could have devastating effects. In the fields and in many food-processing plants, labourers toil close to one another with no protective equipment.

In this context, Caritas Europa, together with other civil society organisations, urge states to grant full access to declared employment for migrant and refugee workers in the agricultural sector. States should for instance grant permits to undocumented workers already in the EU, who are the most vulnerable among the pool of exploitable labourers and who are excluded from accessing subsidised services in many Member States. We thus call on states to ensure that migrant workers’ rights are respected and that they are provided with decent working conditions and granted immediate legal papers to remain.

The crisis unleashed by the spread of the coronavirus has shown just how fragile and unsustainable our food supply system is. The EU Institutions and Member States should take steps to ensure that the food we eat is not produced under exploitative conditions, harming people or the planet. Rather, in line with the Green Deal and the just tradition, we must build a fairer and more sustainable food system now.

00

joint statement

ISSUED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH 27 CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS

Download full joint statement