Reportage – How AGREE is fostering the contrast to exploitation in agriculture in Agro Pontino (Italy)

The project Agree analyzed the case of the Agro Pontino area, 70 kilometers far from Rome, where the exploitation of agricultural workers and their condition of isolation overshadow fundamental human rights. A better understanding of the phenomenon is a starting point for improving social cohesion in rural areas. The objective of Agree project is to develop and share knowledge and to promote better policies, better governance and better operational patterns that are more respectful of the rights of workers.

In Latina the living conditions of rural foreign workers, mainly Indian people, in some cases result a real slavery. Research data collected and monitored by Agree show that many laborers work more than 14 hours per day just to earn a maximum wage of 3,50 EUR per hour on the black market. The CGIL FLAI Union representative, Giovanni Gioia, explains how the union has developed at local level a wide range of support actions in favor of this disadvantaged group of workers.

In Latina there is a situation of double exploitation, affecting people as workers and human beings. What is the position of the union towards it?
Our main task is to work directly on the field to verify and assess their conditions, concerning contracts, living conditions, working hours. In brief, all the information collected here in Latina show us a situation that is largely against the law. We deal with a constant violation of human rights and with a situation of homelessness and isolation. Latina is historically a conservative city but not a racist city, however it seems that Latina citizens are quite indifferent to this kind of problems. We must instead contribute to counteract all this wrong system, since we cannot ensure a complete respect of human rights – both civil and social rights – without citizens’ awareness and without the involvement of the entire local community.

According to the Mayor of Latina, Giovanni Di Giorgi, the awareness should start both in schools and supermarkets. Some specific certifications for ethically-produced agricultural food should be implemented and promoted at local level, said De Giorgi.

Increasing the awareness of citizens is one of the solutions proposed by the Agree project: how can citizens, producers and buyers be concretely involved around this theme?
In my opinion, people have no awareness of how the food they buy is produced. Children must be made aware by teachers and families on how the agriculture works and how to choose products made without any kind of exploitation. The solution proposed by the Agree project of a “no exploitation” label for goods ethically produced is certainly a good starting point in this sense.

Sociologist Marco Omizzolo, head of InMigrazione Association, became expert of the exploitation practices since he lived it from an insider perspective: he infiltrated among summer workers and experienced on his skin the enslavement suffered by the Indian Sikh laborers.

What are the initiatives promoted by your association which had a stronger impact on the local community in the area of Latina?

The strongest action we did as InMigrazione was to start a civil action in a trial, prosecuting the exploiters. This process ended up with the charging of five people for the offenses of forgery, fraud and breach of immigration law. We have become an example for all associations operating in the area: now the procedure for prosecuting the exploiters is simpler. This was a signal also for the local authority, which has not always be active in defense of the foreign workers. Besides this important initiative, the activity of which I am most proud of is the course of Italian language that we organized in Bella Farnia, the neighborhood where the majority of the members of the Sikh community lives. Each activity involved many participant. The knowledge of the language, the law and the rights is a fundamental step towards a stronger integration.

The extended version of this reportage in Italian is available in our website section Pubblications and on Cittalia website