The AMDH sees the dire circumstances of Moroccan women employed as seasonal workers on Spanish strawberry farms as a human rights crisis.
Rabat – The Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) is calling on Moroccan and Spanish officials to address the urgent needs of female Moroccan seasonal workers in Spain. Left stranded in Spain since the borders closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, many of the women are being denied basic human rights under the circumstances.
In a recent letter sent to the Moroccan ambassador in Madrid and to the Spanish ambassador in Rabat, AMDH urges the diplomats to speed up the process of facilitating the womens’ repatriation. It also requested that the embassies or relevant ministries cover all associated costs. The AMDH adds that many of the women employed on the farms have left their families behind in order to earn an income that may provide for the needs of their children in Morocco.
Thousands of women are recruited each year to work seasonally for the strawberry harvest. For years, the bilateral agreement between Morocco and Spain, established in 2001, has been under fire for its failure to address the unsafe and exploitative working and living conditions on the farms.
Now, in addition to many of the workers facing sexual assault and inadequate access to basic services, the women are also suffering from the many risks and challenges posed in the time of COVID-19. The AMDH stressed the need for opening an investigation to determine the responsibilities of all parties who have subjected the women to such conditions.
According to Al Massae, at least 7,200 women found themselves blocked from returning home when the borders closed between Morocco and Spain in March. The report states that, at the end of their work contracts, the women were never contacted by the officials who had facilitated their recruitment through the seasonal work exchange program.
The AMDH denounced the situation, saying that the women were abandoned and left extremely vulnerable under precarious financial, living, and psychological conditions.
In the Huelva region where many of the seasonal workers are employed, a concerning number of complaints have been made against employers who refuse to pay the workers a legal minimum wage or provide them with access to basic living conditions such as having access to water, electricity, hygienic facilities, or access to health care. Moreover, numerous women have reported being coerced for sex or sexually assaulted by their employers.
Spanish law enforcement officials have been slow to respond to cases brought against the farm managers.
In June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also called on the Moroccan and Spanish governments to address the crisis.
“The protection of seasonal migrant workers in Huelva has been completely neglected during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the rest of Spain was under lockdown to stem the spread of the virus, thousands of migrant labourers considered ‘essential workers’ were put to work without even basic hygiene measures being taken, without protective materials and sharing tools,” said Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.