Over 300 foreign labourers exploited in Albacete

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workers exploited

In a shocking development, the Guardia Civil in Albacete has uncovered a criminal organisation that brought more than 300 foreign workers to Spain under false pretences, exploiting them for a meagre €200 per month.

The operation, named ‘Bomvoyage’, resulted in the arrest of 13 individuals and charges against 6 others, including agricultural entrepreneurs who exploited the workers despite having brought them to Spain with legal contracts.

Exploitation through legal channels

The criminal group exploited legal procedures for recruiting temporary workers from Senegal and Morocco. They lured workers with promises of monthly wages between €1,400 and €1,600. However, the labourers ended up receiving just €200 while being forced to work under deplorable conditions. Additionally, these workers often had to pay between €4,000 and €6,000 upfront to secure their positions, plunging entire families into poverty.

Harsh Working Conditions

Once in Spain, the workers endured long hours, toiling between 12 to 14 hours a day. They were charged for their accommodation and other basic needs, and were often forced to eat the fruit they picked due to the lack of other food provisions. The Guardia Civil discovered overcrowded dormitories lacking hot water and with primitive cooking facilities during their investigation.

Severe impact on victims

The victims face severe repercussions. Many sold everything they owned to afford the journey to Spain, only to be left destitute and humiliated. The local government in Albacete is striving to rehouse the victims and help them recover the money they lost to these fraudsters.

Large-scale fraud

The criminal network involved legal advisors, facilitators in Senegal and Morocco, and managers in Spain. They amassed substantial profits by deceiving and exploiting the over 300 workers. The Guardia Civil estimates that the organisation earned at least half a million euros, though the actual figures are likely much higher.

Government response

The Spanish government is taking this matter very seriously and is working on measures to prevent such abuses in the future. The Guardia Civil and Labour Inspection continue to investigate how these practices were allowed to occur and are focusing on improving regulations and enforcement to prevent further exploitation.

A widespread issue

This case is not an isolated incident in Spain. Large-scale exploitation of workers, especially in agriculture, has been documented in regions like Huelva, where strawberry pickers from Morocco often face dire working and living conditions. Similarly, in the greenhouses of Almería and Murcia, many undocumented immigrants are exploited to produce fruits and vegetables for European markets.

A broader European problem

This problem is not unique to Spain. A report by Oxfam and the University of Comillas highlights systemic exploitation of migrant labourers in the EU’s agricultural sector. The report, titled ‘Essential but Invisible and Exploited’, outlines poor working conditions, low wages, and limited access to essential services for these workers. An estimated 2.4 million seasonal workers are employed in the EU, according to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

Vulnerable non-EU workers

Non-EU nationals without proper documentation are especially vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination. These workers rely on their employers for residency permits, making them susceptible to low wages and poor housing conditions. They often have no recourse to report abuses due to fear of losing their jobs or wages.

ASSSA

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