Spain: the treatment of migrant and seasonal workers controversial

A seasonal migrant picks mandarins from near Lepe in southern Spain, March 2, 2020. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

Text by: Elise Gazengel

Near Barcelona, ​​the controversy is growing as hundreds of migrants working in the fields have been sleeping on the streets for days.


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From our correspondent in Barcelona,

Most of these workers went every year to Lleida, 150 km from Barcelona, ​​to pick fruit in the region. With the Covid-19 crisis, they could not come because of the border closures. For the most part, these seasonal workers come from Eastern Europe or Africa.

At the beginning of May, the farmers therefore launched an appeal to recruit workers. The locals did not answer the call - it must be said that the work is difficult and paid around 7 euros per hour. Many migrants - with or without papers - living in Spain have therefore rushed to lend a hand in the fields.

Read also : In Western Europe, with the coronavirus, the puzzle of the agricultural sector to recruit seasonal workers

Viral video

Some seasonal workers have tried to pay for accommodation, but few people agree to rent them an apartment while inns and hotels are closed. So they ended up on the street. A situation denounced in a video that has gone viral by a migrant, and by immigrant support associations like Plataforma Fruita amb justicia social (Plataforma fruta con justicia social)

⚠️ ALERTA! Treballadors de la fruita de #Lleida sense aigua, menjar i sostre.

Denunciem the inacció of the employers to the administracions before the vulnerability of human beings contra els temporers.


  Plataforma Fruita Amb Justícia Social (@destriem_ponent) May 16, 2020

The town hall was forced to react. The city councilor announced the opening of a gymnasium to house a hundred of them. But the seasonal workers denounce Spartan conditions that are ill-suited to rest after twelve-hour days in the fields: simple camp beds separated by 2 meters in a kind of enormous dormitory. In addition, this temporary center only opened on Monday and the migrants are now facing the discontent of certain neighbors who do not want to see them settle there. Officially, for fear of contagion.

Footballer Keita Balde rents a building

It is ultimately a footballer, Keita Balde, who comes to their aid. Born in the region of Senegalese parents, the AS Monaco player was moved by the situation. To the 200 seasonal workers sleeping on the streets, he offered to pay for decent accommodation and meals until the end of the picking season in September. Problem: no hotel in Lleida - yet empty at the moment - has agreed to accommodate them, although the sportsman had agreed to pay all the costs in advance. Local associations denounce the racism of hoteliers.

El futbolista catalán del Mónaco, Keita Baldé, ha alquilado unmueble para acoger a unos 90 temporeros. Gran parte del colectivo malvive en las calles sin acceso a vivienda y el futbolista ha asumido el coste del “alquiler, la comida y algo de ropa”

  EL PAÍS (@el_pais) June 3, 2020

Finally, Keita Balde announced on social networks to have found an entire building for rent to initially house a hundred of them, while waiting to find another. We live in a complex society but nobody deserves this indifference,  " said the footballer and concluded: "  Skin color should no longer be a problem.  "

Listen: The coronavirus, a vector of anti-migrant propaganda

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  • Spain
  • Immigration

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