In Huelva as elsewhere, human rights are priceless

Migration and Asylum, Morocco / Western Sahara, Newsletter, Spain

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After a mission to Huelva, Spain, EuroMed Rights launched a campaign (link in French) – the CNCD-11.11.11 – on the urgent need to respect the fundamental rights of migrant workers.  

Lack of transparency in contracts, wage exploitation, and undignified living conditions. In Huelva, Andalusia, nearly 100,000 seasonal workers are hurrying to pick the red fruits that will be sold in European supermarkets. These men and women, described as “essential” during the pandemic, are still struggling to have their rights recognised.

EuroMed Rights was able to observe it during its mission, last April: with or without papers, these migrants gather in makeshift camps, without drinking water or care, and often remain at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. Others, mainly Moroccan women, come for the harvest under seasonal contracts. Although legal, these contracts are nonetheless subject to infringement. “It’s always the same problem, these women sign a contract in Morocco through the local employment agency, without really being told anything. Once in Spain, the employers make them sign another one with completely different conditions, which does not respect the agreement signed between the two countries“, explain Ana Pinto and Najat Bassit, founders of Jornaleras de Huelva en Lucha.   

These systems of exploitation are outdated and call for a global reflection. Not only in Huelva, but also throughout Europe, where these no-rights zones are numerous and where the shortage of manpower and the use of foreign labour make us fear a worsening of these abuses.   

The EU must seize this opportunity to adopt, as soon as possible, a European law on the duty of vigilance (on the model of the law sought by Belgian NGO CNCD 11-11-11) in order to oblige companies to prevent human rights abuses at their suppliers. Elected representatives must also work on sustainable solutions, such as the legal channels mentioned by the European Commission on 27 April with a view to bringing in these people in a secure manner. Although interesting, this avenue must be subject to safeguards: the increase in legal immigration must not be subject to bargaining, nor must it be conditioned to an increase in returns or a strengthening of border controls.