El Ejido

More and more refugees and migrants are arriving on the southern coast of Spain, having risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean. When they arrive they find no hospitality but modern slavery. Thousands of them are exploited for a miserable wage in the plastic sea of Almeria or in the strawberry fields of Huelva. This exploitation also affects people from Eastern Europe and the poorest Spaniards. The small Andalusian agricultural workers' union SOC-SAT has been working for the most disadvantaged - Spanish and migrant - for years. It is the only union that genuinely seeks to enable the workers to get organised and fight for their rights. Three reception offices in Almería, Nijar and El Ejido offer legal and human support. Our friends are constantly overstretched as it is estimated that there are over 100.000 migrant workers in the province, many of whom are undocumented.

The union has recently revealed a new scandal. With its encouragement ten Moroccan women overcame their fear and filed complaints against their superiors for sexual harassment and violence. Shortly afterwards, four Spanish strawberry pickers joined them. Many female farm workers are harassed by their bosses and then intimidated. What had until now been smothered under a leaden silence is being brought to light by these courageous women. And it's obvious that it's only the tip of an iceberg.

With the report of the delegation that it sent to El Ejido in April 2000 following the racist riots in February of that year the European Civic Forum was instrumental in denouncing the widespread but little known scandal of modern slavery in intensive fruit and vegetable production in Andalusia and elsewhere in Europe. Ever since then the ECF has provided financial support to the SOC-SAT to help it develop its activities.