Generation 2.0 RED’s speech in the Parliament on the case of Manolada

On Tuesday 12/02/2019, Generation 2.0 for Rights, Equality & Diversity participated in the meeting of the Subcommittee on Combating Human Trafficking and Exploitation on the case of Manolada.

Below you can read our entire speech.
You can watch the video with the whole speech on Facebook or on YouTube.

[Sebene Eshete]

“Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, we want to thank you for inviting our organization.

Generation 2.0 for Rights, Equality and Diversity is an organization of people of immigrant and Greek origin who work together to promote equal participation in a diverse society, particularly through the empowerment of communities.

Our involvement with the Manolada case began in 2017 with supportive actions to empower and inform migrant land workers. We have also seen that the living and working conditions of migrant land workers are inextricably linked to Greece’s institutional framework for immigration. Our survey data showed, that only 4% of respondents had a definite residence permit in Greece.

It can be percieved that the lack of legal residence documents for the remaining 96% means, inter alia, the constant threat of arrest or deportation, workers’ exposure to conditions that hatch labor exploitation but also the inability to denounce these incidents that degrade human dignity.

However, following the June fire, representing 164 land workers, we submitted a petition to the Labor Inspection Body in September. The requests of the application were that the competent authorities: a) conduct field inspections to identify violations of labor law and insurance laws in agricultural crops as open-air harvesting b) ensure that victims will receive extraordinary financial assistance c) provide decent housing in humane and sanitary circumstances d) establish a more efficient legislative procedure for the granting of seasonal work e) take all appropriate measures to remove the conditions for the development of trafficking phenomena for the purpose of labor exploitation.

To these requests the Labor Inspection Body responded, that the equivalent regional services organized a visit, in order to conduct inspections, in which they found no violations of labor law. And, how could they? Due to the seasonal crop of strawberries, at the time of the visit there were not many workers in the area and therefore no agricultural activity in place. It is worth noticing, that the directorate of Health and Security identifies itself as not competent to audit the living conditions of the farmers.

Our response to the above and especially to the LIB response, that it is not easy to locate the workers’ camps, was to create the Manolada Watch Observatory. Manolada Watch is an initiative of Generation 2.0 for Rights, Equality & Diversity, for the monitoring of working and living conditions of the migrant agricultural workers at Manolada in Ilia, Greece.

Nowadays, in the wider region, particularly in the area where the fire broke out, new shacks made of canes and plastic (which are flammable materials too) have been built in the last quarter, and the situation is hardly different from what existed before the fire. In the place where the official (!) camp for the fire victims was created, the unbreakable prevails. It is estimated that there are more than 300 land workers living in equivalent shacks, who declare paying rent (apparently undeclared) to the landlord. The six chemical toilets, installed during the camp in June have been removed long ago, as well as the only installation of running water with what this entails for hygiene conditions.

Equivalent camps have been created in dozens of places in the area with dangerous patents for water and electricity supply.

This year’s strawberry farming season is in progress, at this time. The harvest of the main production starts in the second half of February, which means that the above phenomena will intensify in the next few weeks. The production of strawberry in the wider area of ​​Manolada generally increases every year. This increase in production entails more cultivated land and thus higher labour needs. So, making a forecast we could say that the problem will worsen over the years if there is no substantial solution.

For which my colleague will continue”.

[Evangelos Douvlis]

“First of all, as my colleague said, we are dealing with a problem of legal residence, since few are the land workers who have it. Are the labour needs covered by these 200 people? The answer is no. The needs for land workers, especially in March and April, are estimated to reach up to 10.000, ranging from Lakopetra, Achaia to Gastouni, Ilia. Therefore, more people will be employed. Will the Greek state allow or tolerate that these people work illegally? Of course not.

The next question that arises, is whether the existing legal framework provides solutions in our case, as it is called “Employment of undocumented third-country nationals in the rural economy” and this is 13A Article of Law 4251/14. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the data with these real needs, the regional unit of Ilia set a maximum number of residence permits for third country nationals for the whole region of Ilia and for the years 2017 and 2018 the number is 1.500. Eventually the police station of Pyrgos confirms that in 2018, 245 permits were issued concerning land workers in the area of ​​Manolada. As we can see, 13A does not solve the problem, but instead, as time passes and needs grow, this issue will become worse. Of course, the extension of illegitimacy also has more side effects, such as the loss of contributions to insurance funds. At the same time, however, with a larger number of people, housing and living conditions (sanitary-running water-toilets, etc.) will deteriorate exponentially and in warmer months, there will be a very serious health issue for land-workers. An equivalent issue is the safety conditions and the transportation of workers. This impunity in the region (and in other rural areas of the country, because Manolada is not the sole example) must stop. Unfortunately, it reminds us of practices from older eras and that are disgrace for our country.

Concluding, for us compliance with the ECHR judgment without a provision for legal residence would not be sufficient.

If we want to talk about real compliance of the country with the Strasbourg decision, it should create a functional and effective legal framework that will replace 13A of L. 4251/14 with the following characteristics:

A residence permit – solely for agricultural work – with a simple procedure, without the bureaucracy of the existing institutional framework.

We suggest that this residence permit does not only suspend deportation but ensures legal residence, for example, one year-long, and if the worker completes some renewals and the necessary insurance stamps, they can enter the existing residence permit system and acquire the dependent work residence permit.

Second and equally important issue, is the living conditions. With the current expertise of OPEKEPE and the Ministry of Rural Development in general, it is now very easy to estimate with precision the required labour needs, depending on the species, area and yield of each crop. Therefore, the legislation should oblige professional farmers, especially those who cultivate over a certain area and will certainly need a number of land workers, to secure (hire or construct) premises suitable for their accommodation. The construction of such spaces (detached or permanent structures) should be facilitated by a relative provision of planning legislation. And obviously, nothing can be achieved without the inspections of the competent services that need to be stepped up and take place at the right time. This would also be achieved by the ratification of International Labor Organization Convention 129.

These interventions are necessary for Greece to be able to stand in the process of complying with the requirements of the ECHR decision, having made tangible progress. Otherwise, it is very predictable that a shack made of plastic canvas and canes, with pebbles and open flame will sooner or later, be wrapped in flames and maybe this time we will not be as lucky as the two previous ones”.