Report on the situation at Manolada | March 2020

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. Since 2017 as an organization, we have been dealing with the situation in the region, which has resulted us in having a lot of data and relevant experience. We decided to share the experience with the public in order to contribute to the awareness of the Greek society and the public authorities for the case of Manolada.

As part of the measures announced to address COVID-19, the Οrganization has been unable to visit the area of Manolada, from where the reports posted on Manolada Watch have so far been obtained. The purpose of this report is to record the situation as it has been developed in the region, as a result of the appearance of COVID-19 in Greece and the relevant measures that have been taken. The information was collected through telephone contact with official bodies (Directorate of Health & Social Welfare of the Region of Western Greece, the Municipality of Andravida-Kyllini, the Police Department of Varda, the Migrant Integration Center of the Municipality of Andravida – Kyllini), with the lawyer Vassilis Kerasiotis, as well as from the testimonies of the land workers, with whom the Organization has been in constant contact since 2017. The contact with the Bangladesh Embassy was not possible as it is closed.

Information to land workers on the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its prevention measures.

As we have been informed, land workers residing in the area have been informed about the coronavirus (COVID-19), personal protection and social isolation measures and traffic restriction measures in various ways. The Municipality of Andravida – Kyllini created a printed information form which, in collaboration with the Embassy of Bangladesh, has been translated and distributed to the population of land workers through community representatives. The Μunicipality contacted community representatives to orally disseminate the information themselves and urged the community to formally communicate with its Embassy, in order to understand the seriousness and formality of all measures. The basic information that has been disseminated is to take basic protective measures such as the use of gloves and masks, the restriction of traffic and crowding, that is, to stay on the huts where they reside, not to move and crowd on the streets and squares. Also, the Municipality of Andravida – Kyllini has contacted the Amaliada Medical Association, with the Health Center of the area on how to handle suspected cases, as well as a hotline will be operating (2623360861) both in Greek and English. If necessary, the communication of Bangladeshi land workers is possible through the mediation of community representatives who speak Greek, as they have been in contact so far. The police is committed to limiting traffic and crowding. Already, before traffic restriction measures, every day from 15.00 to 21.00 (after work), police patrols were circulating around the area to prevent and avoid land workers from overcrowding. Concerning the subsequent restriction of traffic (that became effective on 23/03/2020), they have also been informed by a recorded message in their own languages transmitted by the police patrol loudspeaker.

In general, there is a response and cooperation on behalf of the land workers upon the recommendations and the additional measures. Since Monday 23/03/2020, fines have been imposed on Greeks and foreigners for breach of the restriction on the movement of residents. When it comes to commuting to and from work, the certificate is provided by the employer. In case there is a need of movement for another reason (pharmacy, doctor) it is not quite clear how the land workers will bring the necessary certifications in Greek. Usually, until now, they have been accompanied by someone from the community who speaks the Greek language and also, is familiar to the local authorities and is already, in contact with them.


Land workers

According to the authorities (Municipality, police) there are no official data and numbers of registered land workers. According to community representatives, whose witnesses vary, it is estimated that there are about 7,000 to 10,000 land workers in the wider strawberry production area. As we have been informed, land workers are quite concerned about COVID-19. No cases have been recorded until today.


Legal status

Given the current circumstances as they have been shaped after the restriction of movement and the compulsory use of movement certificates, land workers must carry employer certificates. As the Police Department of Barda informed us, during the inspection, as is the case for all, evidence of movement certificate and passport are required. According to the representatives of the Bangladeshi land workers community as well as the lawyer Vasilis Kerasiotis, there are employers who grant movement certifications to those workers who own a passport, while others do not.


Housing conditions

As we have been informed from different sources, the camps are still in the same condition. They consist of makeshift huts, enhanced with layers of nylon that is used in greenhouses, for protection, there is no water supply and the needs are covered by small tanks, the showers and toilets remain outside and they are still makeshift. Each hut continues to accommodate approximately 10 to 20 people, depending on its size. There is no provision for immediate additional measures. There is no provision for immediate additional measures when it comes to housing conditions. In particular, the Directorate of Health and Social Welfare of the Region of Western Greece stated that this category of population (land workers) does not fall within its responsibility but within the responsibility of the Municipality. Moreover, the region has not received any formal information, in the context of the announcement of the prevention measures concerning the pandemic disease, to take action on her part. The Municipality of Andravida-Kyllini has not provided for measures, since it does not have the necessary funds and resources, and, also, has not received any specific instructions from the Central Administration on how the Municipality could implement measures to improve housing conditions.


Working conditions

Harvesting of strawberries starts in March until June (about mid-month). Work has not stopped at this time due to COVID – 19, but has been minimized. According to estimates by representatives of the Bangladeshi land workers’ community, production has dropped approximately by 70%, with large quantities of strawberries being thrown away. The reduction at the production is due to the inability to export the strawberries, but also to the inability to provide them to the domestic market. Land workers work part time, more specifically fewer land workers are employed and for less hours. The salary remains the same, according to them. The reduction at strawberry production has a direct impact not only on producers but also on land workers, whose economic survival depends on this job. The producers themselves have the responsibility of providing gloves and masks now, according to the information from the local authorities. Thus, some land workers have them, because their employer has provided them, while others have don’t. As a measure of personal protection in the field, we have been informed by the community that the land workers in the field work scattered, keeping safety distance. Another measure of social distance that some employers have taken, according to the information we received, is that they did not transport the land workers by truck, but they recommended that they walk to the fields. Some land workers live 5-6 km away from the place they work.

Here you can find November’s report