Despite the reports of rights violations and sexual abuse, the opportunity to work in Spanish strawberry fields continues to appeal to many Moroccan (female) seasonal workers.
Rabat – 19,000 Moroccan seasonal workers are expected to travel to Spain this year to work in strawberry fields as part of a longstanding bilateral agreement between Madrid and Rabat, according to reports.
The number of migrant workers needed for the upcoming harvest season in Spain’s Andalusia region indicates a steady need for seasonal workers from Morocco. Each year, close to 20,000 travel to Spain as part of the agreement.
The high numbers reflect the importance of the Strawberry industry of the Spanish economy but also the significance of Moroccan migrant workers to sustain the business, Morocco’s Les Inspirations Eco newspaper reported earlier today.
But the projected numbers tend to slightly decrease by the end of the recruitment process. Les Inspirations Eco noted that for last year almost 20,000 were expected to travel to Spain but by the end of the recruiting and screening process only 14,411 made the final cut.
The first recruitment phase for this year is set to start by the end of November. One novelty for this year is that there will be four recruitment rounds, up from three in recent years.
The project is the fruit of strong cooperation between the Spanish government and the Moroccan Ministry of Labor and Vocational Integration. The partnership is usually labeled as a bilateral agreement aimed at reducing Morocco’s high unemployment.
The project has appealed to—and still does—thousands of Moroccan rural women. In the past months and years, however, there have been numerous complaints of sexual abuse, exploitation, and unpaid labor.
“In Morocco, they are deliberately looking for those who are cheap and vulnerable to do this work, namely rural women with young children who only understand Arabic, cannot understand their contracts written in Spanish or claim their rights,” one woman recently told the Guardian.
Even as the project legacy has been stained by repeated reports of abuse and exploitation, the extremely high unemployment rate in Morocco means the project continues to appeal to many in the country.
Earlier this year, Morocco set up a committee to deal with the recurring exploitation and sexual abuse complaints, vowing to preempt a repeat of previous scandals and defend the rights of the women it annually sends to Spanish strawberry fields.