Report on the situation at Manolada | Νovember 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 in us 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.

At the moment, due to the new restriction measures on the movement of residents in order to address the spread of COVID-19, the Generation 2.0 RED team has been unable to visit the area of Manolada, from where the reports posted on Manolada Watch have so far been obtained.

This report aims to record the situation as it has developed in the region as a result of the new measures announced in order to address COVID-19. The information was collected, as in the report of March 2020, through telephone contact with official bodies (the Municipality of Andravida-Kyllini, the Police Department of Varda, the Migrant Integration Center of the Municipality of Andravida – Kyllini) as well as from the testimonies of land workers with whom the organization has been in constant contact with since 2017.

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

During the second lockdown, land workers residing in the area have been informed about the protection measures and traffic restriction measures via the distribution of printed information, which has been translated in their language. This informative document had been created by the Municipality of Andravida – Kyllini in collaboration with the Embassy of Bangladesh in March 2020, during the first lockdown and has now been redistributed to the land workers.

The land workers are now better informed in comparison to March 2020, since they are aware that in order to circulate in public they are required to send an sms text or have a written certificate of exceptional movement or a worker’s movement certificate, wear a mask and according to the Varda Police Station, overcrowding at N. Manolada square is no longer observed. This information has also been confirmed by the land workers, who reiterated that the community is aware not only of the traffic restriction measures, but also of the mandatory mask use. As it was highlighted, everyone is cautious regarding their movement and avoid circulating after work. 

In addition, police authorities are in contact with community representatives to provide them with thorough information relating to the new measures and to assure that no fines have been imposed so far, because they comply with all measures. There are only minor exceptional cases of fines, in which Greeks and foreigners  surpassed the allowed car passengers number during their drive to the fields.

Finally, the Municipality has come in contact with the Amaliada Medical Association, the General Hospital of Pyrgos, the University Hospital of Patras (Rio), the EODY (National Public Health Organization), as well as with the producers, in order to remain in open communication for their potential coordination in the possibility of a COVID-19 case rise.

In general terms, from the overall communication we had, no health issues have been reported in the land workers’ community, neither an issue of non-compliance has been noted. So far, there have been no COVID-19 cases registered in the land worker community.

Land workers

There are still no official data and numbers of registered land workers. According to the local authorities (municipality and police), as well as the land workers, whose witnesses vary, it is estimated that there are about 6,000 to 7,000 land workers in the wider strawberry production area. However, due to the reduced work needs of November, a large number of land workers are absent from the area, as they are engaged in other agricultural work, such as e.g. in olive groves in Messinia. So, for the time being, it is not possible to give a total number of land workers even approximately.

Legal Status

Most of the land workers have no legal documents. As it has already been recorded in previous reports, according to the police’s estimation, only 1/10 of them have received a certificate of “postponement of expulsion due to employment in the agricultural economy” (based on article 13A of Law 4251/2014), while over 550 land workers either have a residence permit for humanitarian reasons, due to the 2018 fire, or are waiting for them to be issued. In the present circumstances and because of the traffic restriction, the land workers are obliged to carry employer certificates. According to the police authorities’ observations, the employers have granted movement certifications to those workers, who have legal documents. 

Housing Conditions 

As we have been informed from the land workers, the camps are still in the same condition. In the two camps we visit, conditions have remained the same, as we have previously recorded, and have not shown any improvement. In the first one, there are makeshift huts made of bamboo, steel and greenhouse plastic films. Furthermore, there is no water supply, apart from some small plastic tanks, and for drinking water the land workers supply themselves with plastic bottles from the market. In the other camp, which was created after the 2018 fire, there are lodges, made of plywood, which have been inhabited since springtime in 2020. Finally, regarding both camps there is no concern on the part of the authorities for the collection of sewage from makeshift toilets and garbage within the camps and there are no bins, so that the land workers are able to throw their garbage there. So, the minimum health protection measures do not apply.

Working Conditions 

During this month, work on the strawberry fields has been noticeably reduced, since during the month of October the planting process was completed. Now, is the waiting period until the strawberries are ready for harvest to start. At present, only strawberries that have already grown, having been planted in a different way, using nurseries, are ready to be harvested. 

Due to the reduced need for labor and the movement of land workers to other rural areas in search of work, there is no overcrowding in the fields anyway, as the land workers informed us. According to the police, everyone has been instructed to work scattered, keeping some safety distances.

Finally, due to the remote information through specific testimonies of land workers, we are not in the position to have a clear and complete picture of their working hours and wages during this period.

Here you can find the July’s report