Almeria in Aljazeera: a parallel universe


With the title “consumers are not aware we are slaves inside the greenhouses” journalist James Rippingale of the Qatari channel describes Almeria as a place outside the law.

The documentary, published in Aljazeera last month, begins with a trade union member saying that “people die inside the greenhouses, because they have no protection.” It’s the second time this year that we have faced a serious accusation like this from an international network, stating that people die inside the greenhouses. It is incredible that a journalist begins a report with this level of accusation–without any evidence or data that validates what that person is saying. That they can do so with repercussion is outrageous.

Almería is a European city, and our production meets all the required quality standards, which are not few. The same is true in terms of occupational risk prevention.

You can get an idea of ​​the ignorance and lack of research with which this report has been made from details such as the reported origin of migrants working in Almeria. According to James, most are from West Africa, from countries like Mali, when we all know that more than half of the migrants living in this area come from Morocco.

Of course, the documentary does not lack the unfortunate and real images of migrant settlements. As we have said before, Almeria is a city located on the most unequal border in the world, which separates Europe from Africa. It really is unfair to try to hold Almeria farmers responsible for the situation of vulnerability of people who come to this country in search of a better life. Even less so when the law requires them to live three years here before they can even ask for a work permit. All administrations, from town halls to the European Union, through local and central government, must work to end this disgraceful situation.

If there are businesses, from whatever sector, willing to take advantage of this vulnerability to get cheap labor, they can be deterred by inspections and controls from state security forces and heavy fines to face–and it is not our intention to defend them.

However, thousands of people from different countries also live in Almería who have successfully passed their immigration process and who are integrated into our society. The vast diversity of cultures studying in our public schools are proof of this.

The documentary continues, now talking about the working conditions inside the greenhouse, stating that “there is no security”. With this simple phrase, with a single stroke it eliminates all the work on the occupational risk prevention in a sector that is constantly audited to comply with EU requirements. Companies specializing in risk prevention, risk prevention courses, employee training, inspections and controls… The full reality is dashed by this simple phrase.

“The temperature is 50°C.” Those of us who work in greenhouses know that in the summer months there is no activity, and that during the rest of the year they start working at dawn and do not work in the midday hours. The funny thing is that these statements are accompanied by images of people working in greenhouses that are quite sheltered, and each one with a cart, while the union representative says that “we must lift weights that sometimes exceed our own energy.”

“Being exposed to the inhalation of products of which you do not know their origin. The danger”. It is not surprising that this man thinks that people die in the greenhouses, but what we do not know is if he has ever stepped foot inside one. Almeria has been working with integrated control for 20 years, and the use of phytosanitary products has been drastically reduced. Even so, when they do have to be used, extensive risk prevention and employee training is in place, which make the greenhouse a safe place. Although, as in any sector, workplace accidents can occur. In that case, there are laws in place to judge who the responsible parties are and make them pay.

The height of the madness is when they say that workers are not entitled to medical insurance. This journalist ignores that in this country there is universal healthcare, and that all of us who live here, with or without papers, have the right to free medical assistance.

So no, the greenhouse is not a dangerous place, and we don’t sacrifice migrants to sell vegetables. There are also quality standards such as SMETA or GRASP that certify the good social practices of companies—certifications that we practice in Eurosol voluntarily.

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