Italian police on Tuesday July 25, conducted raids on 75 farms across Italy against slave-like working conditions in the agricultural sector and arrested 10 suspects.
In one of the most serious cases, the Polizia di Stato arrested three people in the tomato-growing area of Ragusa, south-eastern Sicily, who had field workers on 12-hour shifts and paid just 2.50 euros (2.90 dollars) per hour.
Police raids, conducted over the past four weeks, targeted farms and up and down the country, including in Verona and Forli-Cesena in the north, Latina in the centre, and Legge, Matera, Ragusa, Syracuse, Salerno, Taranto and Vibo Valentia in the south.
Beyond the arrests, officers reported 24 people for criminal prosecution, blocked the activity of four farms, and issued a total of 108,000 euros in fines.
The exploitation of workers is a serious problem in Italy’s construction and agricultural industries.
Many of the thousands of the African migrants, who land in Italy each week, get caught up in it, through the Mafia-controlled gangmaster system of “caporalato.”
In April, the Doctors for Human Rights advocacy group published a report on a shanty town hosting about 2,500 citrus fruit pickers in the Mafia-ridden region of Calabria, which it called “Italy’s biggest ghetto.”
In 2016, an anti-caporalato law was passed, punishing employers and the gangmasters, who recruit workers with jail terms ranging from one to six years and fines of 500 to1,000 euros per each labourer employed illegally.