Migrant workers, providing fruits and vegetables to UK supermarkets, have been confined, due to recent social-distancing laws, to the cramped settlements in Southern Spain where they live, often without access to running water, basic sanitation or food.
Many are unable to work during the pandemic, meaning they have no income and are in urgent need of supplies.
"There are many people who have nothing to eat and no clean drinking water," Amadou*, who lives in Lepe settlement, Huelva says.
Local organisations are working to provide basic necessities in these communities. Your support will provide food, medicine, nappies and other vital supplies.
We are working with SOC-SAT agricultural unions in Almeria and Huelva and the Collective of African Workers - a grassroots organisation campaigning for an “end to the shanty towns” - to provide relief.
What is the situation?
Failure of employers and the government to provide basic rights has created dire circumstances for the inhabitants of the shanty towns in Almeria and Huelva, Southern Spain. Thousands of workers and their families live in settlements, in housing made out of wooden pallets, cardboard and plastic from the local greenhouses.
Since Spain declared a lockdown on the 14th March, they have been told that they cannot leave these settlements. Yet the closest source of running water is sometimes several kilometers away, according to a UN report published in January.
“Under normal circumstances the conditions for the day labourers who live in the settlement are shocking. After more than 15 days of alarm, the situation is desperate," José from the local agricultural union SOC-SAT Almeria told us in mid-March.
Usually the workers are employed as pickers or in warehouses for the salad vegetables and soft fruits industries in the region, which are believed to supply to all major UK supermarkets. Although considered ‘essential’ workers, many are now unable to work because operations on their farms have been paused, or they cannot travel to the farms due to limitations of two to each vehicle during the coronavirus outbreak. The local union also says that farms are using Covid-19 as an opportunity to make covert layoffs. Already on poverty wages, most have no savings and live off each month’s pay.
Without running water, and in crowded living conditions, they also say they are unable to follow health protocols and are scared that coronavirus will spread. They say that they urgently need personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as food and other basic supplies.
“We’re living here, feeling scared and afraid, because up until now we haven’t received any kind of help, not in terms of water, gloves, or face masks,” Amadou, who lives in Lepe in Huelva, says.
Who are the organisations?
SOC-SAT: the local agricultural union in Almeria and Huelva, it works with its members to improve conditions for workers and ensure that basic rights are met. SOC-SAT Almeria has been providing relief to the Atochares settlement throughout the crisis. It has distributed pasta, beans, oil, milk, biscuits, shower gel, nappies and medicines. It decides the priority supplies and how to fairly distribute them through consultation with its members living in the settlements.
Collective of African Workers: a grassroots organisation campaigning for an “end to the shanty towns” in Huelva. They are providing support with food, water, personal hygiene products and cleaning, and say that PPE is a priority for those living in Huelva.
Ethical Consumer: a not-for-profit cooperative based in Manchester, we have offered information on corporate abuses and consumer action for over 30 years. We provide the tools for positive personal, consumer choice. We also have long-running experience of working with other organisations and businesses on building social movements and campaigns.
We have been campaigning with SOC-SAT for better conditions for agricultural workers in Almeria since January 2019, and are asking UK supermarkets to take responsibility for conditions in their supply chains.
How will the money be spent?
Urgent priorities are:
- nappies and other baby products,
- personal hygiene products,
- masks, gloves, disinfectant gel and other PPE.
Longer-term goals for SOC-SAT include providing water infrastructure.
42.5% will go to SOC-SAT Almeria.
42.5% will go to SOC-SAT Huelva and CTA.
15% will go to Ethical Consumer to cover the administration and promotion costs for the Crowdfunder. If we exceed the £6,000 target, we will lower the amount to 10%, which will be used to fund ongoing work on the Crowdfunder and future campaign work with SOC-SAT to try and improve long-term conditions for workers in Almeria and Huelva.
The money will be transferred to the organisations in instalments as its pledged, to ensure that they can provide the relief as soon as possible.
*Names of workers have been changed to protect their identities.