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Film reveals hidden slavery in Europe's asparagus fields

The Ecologist

16th October, 2012

The recent conviction of three men in the Czech Republic for people trafficking offences shone a light on the hidden exploitation and violence endured by farm workers cultivating asparagus for European diners

Whether boiled, streamed or grilled, or chopped up and used in risotto, soup or salad, asparagus has become one of our favorite vegetable treats.

But in Eastern Europe, farm workers have been paying a high price to get the tasty green spears onto our dinner tables, an investigation by the Dutch TV channel EO has revealed.

The film, just released in the UK (you can watch it above), documents the brutal treatment suffered by a group of Romanian workers at the hands of people traffickers who took them to work on asparagus farms in the Czech Republic linked to a Dutch company which has supplied leading food outlets in a number of European countries.

The workers describe being forced to toil for hours at a time harvesting asparagus, of being beaten, and of being threatened with guns, knives and swords by the gang.

Corina Rohaveanu, one of the workers interviewed for the programme, says: "As soon as we arrived our IDs were taken. I thought to myself, we have no chance of escape".

Earlier this year, three men were convicted of people trafficking offences relating to the case, but the film asks why the Dutch company involved has - so far - escaped prosecution

Klara Skrivankova, Anti-Slavery International Trafficking Programme Co-ordinator, said: “Across Europe the trafficking for forced labour is on the increase, becoming even more prominent than trafficking for sexual exploitation. However, prosecutions in the main remain rare, with cases of exploitative gangmasters responsible for forced labour receiving fines for breaching health and safety regulations rather than facing stiff criminal penalties for committing a human rights abuse. The prosecution of the traffickers responsible in this case finally sends the necessary strong message that forced labour will not be tolerated.”

The film comes on the back of The Ecologist's own 'Who's picking your food?' investigation into exploitation in the food supply chain.

The major series linked Coca Cola to cheap migrant labour in Italy's orange groves, and highlighted sexual harassment of women at a PG Tips tea estate in Africa, amongst other stories.

Useful links

Anti-Slavery International www.antislavery.org/english/

 

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