Moroccan workers fly in to rescue Italy’s harvest

A Fiumicino airport employee wearing a "Smart-Helmet" portable thermoscanner to screen passengers and staff for COVID-19 (R), scans a fellow airport staff at boarding gates on May 5, 2020 at Rome's Fiumicino airport during the country's lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (AFP)
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Updated 24 May 2020

Moroccan workers fly in to rescue Italy’s harvest

  • About 350,000 foreigners work temporarily each year in Italy’s agricultural sector

ROME: A special flight arrived in Italy carrying 124 Moroccan workers, the first in an army of migrant laborers who will help harvest the country’s summer crops amid a workforce shortage in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The flight from Casablanca, which landed in Pescara in Italy’s central Abruzzo region, is part of a so-called “green corridor” for migrants seeking agricultural work.
The corridor was established after a government decree earlier this month allowing nearly 400,000 undocumented migrants to carry out seasonal farm work this year.
During three months of lockdown, thousands of unregistered migrants have worked around Italy harvesting fruit and vegetables. All risked arrest if caught by police.
Following the government decree, migrant laborers can work legally and receive medical care if needed.
Ten of the first group of Moroccans will work with Modesto Angelucci, 29, whose farm in the Avezzano region produces potatoes, carrots, fennel and spinach.
“They will comply with quarantine, like anyone who arrives from abroad. These are specialized people, who can’t be easily replaced,” Angelucci told a TV channel.
“A field worker must be trained and it takes time to do so,” he added.
Angelucci said that he is reluctant to hire inexperienced local workers. The Moroccans have been employed in line with government regulations, and have insurance and special safety equipment for the pandemic, such as masks and gloves.

SPEEDREAD

The corridor was established after a government decree earlier this month allowing nearly 400,000 undocumented migrants to carry out seasonal farm work this year.

About 350,000 foreigners work temporarily each year in Italy’s agricultural sector.
Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova said that due to coronavirus, the country faces a shortage of “between 250,000 and 270,000” day laborers.
An influx of foreign workers is needed to revive the farm economy, “which is in deep crisis after two months of total closure,” she said.
Every summer thousands of Africans, Bulgarians and Romanians travel to Italy to collect tomatoes and fruit.
“You start as a pawn and you learn. I already have a driver’s license for a tractor,” Moroccan Mounam Benkirrou, 34, told an Italian newspaper.
The “green corridors” also will be used to bring Indian and Macedonian day laborers who are skilled in harvesting fennel.
According to the employers’ federation Confindustria, 30,000 Italians have signed up as day laborers because of the coronavirus crisis, while in the past only migrants, mainly from North Africa, worked in the fields.


Britain’s Iraq war crimes probe dismisses thousands of complaints

Updated 43 min 52 sec ago

Britain’s Iraq war crimes probe dismisses thousands of complaints

  • Former lawyer Phil Shiner and a team in Berlin drew on the accounts of more than 400 Iraqis who allegedly witnessed or experienced crimes

LONDON: An independent British investigator looking into allegations that UK soldiers committed war crimes in Iraq between 2003 and 2009 said Tuesday that all but one of the thousands of complaints have been dropped.
The Service Prosecuting Authority director Andrew Cayley told BBC radio that it was “quite possible” that none of the original allegations will lead to a prosecution.
Cayley did not provide details of the allegation in the last remaining case.
British combat troops fought alongside other coalition forces in an effort to quell an Islamic insurgency that followed the 2003 US invasion and subsequent fall and execution of dictator Saddam Hussein.
Former lawyer Phil Shiner and a team in Berlin drew on the accounts of more than 400 Iraqis who allegedly witnessed or experienced crimes ranging from rape and torture to mock executions and other atrocities.
A UK tribunal struck off Shiner after finding him guilty of misconduct and dishonesty in connection with the allegations in 2017.
Cayley told the BBC that it was likely that no action would be taken in a separate International Criminal Court (ICC) probe.
“My sense is these matters are coming to a conclusion,” he said.
A lawyer representing some of the soldiers accused by Shiner called for a public apology over the “vile war crime slurs.”
“At long last, this witch hunt is coming to an end,” lawyer Hilary Meredith said.
The UK Defense Ministry said in 2012 that it had paid £15.1 million ($19 million, 17 million euros) to more than 200 Iraqis who had accused British troops of illegal detention and torture.