subscribe: Posts | Comments

Wanted: rights for strawberry pickers in Spain


Women's Link Worldwide, strawberry pickers, Huelva, Spain, women workers, sexual harassment, human rights violations, Protective measures should include a gender perspective; strawberry-picking is a highly feminised industry.

Women’s Link Worldwide has asked the United Nations to investigate human rights violations against migrant women carrying out seasonal farm work in Spain’s strawberry industry.

The international organisation Women’s Link Worldwide, with the support of 7 other organisations, has sent an urgent communication to several United Nations (UN) bodies detailing human rights violations committed against Moroccan women and other migrants carrying out seasonal work in the strawberry and other berry fields in Huelva, in the south of Spain.

Women’s Link and the other organisations also warn of additional risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to the rights of these Moroccan women and the rest of the migrant worker population, who were already in a situation of heightened vulnerability because of labour exploitation and the numerous forms of violence they have faced for years.

And these workers may now be exposed to new forms of exploitation resulting from the labour shortage caused by the borders closing, as well as an increase in impunity in cases of violence, particularly sexual violence, due to greater difficulties they now face in accessing healthcare and the justice system.

In addition, workplace conditions – no physical distancing, gloves, or masks – and housing conditions  – shipping containers lacking ventilation, potable water, and onsite toilets – at some farms mean they are at great risk of COVID-19 infection.

Migrants living in informal settlements in the province are also at risk of infection as they also lack access to basic services such as water and sewage, according to local organisations.

Women’s Link has asked the UN bodies to issue a joint statement to the competent authorities of Spain and Morocco and the businesses involved demanding protection for the health and rights of migrant workers in Huelva.

These measures, they said, should include a gender perspective, since strawberry-picking is a highly feminised industry.

They should also be sustainable over the long term, not just during the COVID-19 crisis, for the area has a history of rights violations.

Along with the communication, the organisation submitted a report prepared by Andaira, Taraceas Cooperativa, and other experts detailing the most frequent human rights violations committed against seasonal workers in the 2019 season.

The report describes rights violations documented during the worker selection process in Morocco and during the performance of work, as well as specific violations related to housing conditions, sexual violence, access to justice, access to healthcare, and sexual and reproductive rights.

Based on this report and the accounts of ally organisations working in Huelva, Women’s Link maintains that the situation has not improved substantially since 2018, when measures were announced as a response to numerous reports of labour exploitation and sexual violence against migrant workers.

Most of these measures still place the onus of reporting abuses on the workers, who are often unaware of their rights or may fear losing their jobs.

And Spain has yet to take steps to ensure that businesses respect workers’ rights, opting instead to delegate oversight duties to strawberry industry managers and owners, rather than having government agencies monitor their compliance.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, like all crises, has a specific impact on women, exacerbating existing gender inequalities,” Women’s Link Worldwide’s attorney Aintzane Márquez explained.

“This impact is particularly serious for women in situations of vulnerability, such as migrant workers in the strawberry industry, whose families rely on their income, and who face discriminatory and abusive work conditions.

“The COVID-19 crisis offers an opportunity to overhaul the in-country hiring system. Returning to ‘normal’ must also mean shifting to a production model where migrant workers’ rights, rather than financial interests, are front and centre,” Márquez added.

To read the report, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *