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Huelva Gate : The struggle of Moroccan strawberry pickers has just started

It has been a few weeks that a scandal erupted in Southern Spain, revealing shocking accounts of Moroccan strawberry pickers allegedly abused by their bosses. Keeping up with the situation in Huelva since May, Yabiladi spoke to the Andalusia Workers Syndicate (SAT).

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Thanks to the Andalusia Workers Syndicate (SAT), several Moroccan women, working as seasonal strawberry pickers in Huelva, have been able to speak out about their situation in the fields and denounce abuses they have been subjected to for more than a decade.

Contacted by Yabiladi on Friday, June the 8th, spokesperson for SAT José Antonio, was ready to update our readers about the scandal and give an insider's description of what is happening in Huelva's strawberry fields.

After being assaulted, they fled the fields, but «when they escaped, they were unable to talk, that's when we decided to intervene. We had to help them», José Antonio told Yabiladi on the phone.

«The women kept telling us 'No bien. No bien' (not good)», he said. Once identified, the union hired a translator. They have all spoken about sexual assault, and the fact that they did not want to go back to the farms where they used to work. SAT accompanied them last Friday to the police station to file a complaint against their alleged assaulters.

Abused in the fields

José Antonio, who spoke to many of them, told Yabiladi that in addition to sexual assaults, they have been suffering from different forms of abuse. Several of them were underpaid and their employers took advantage of their naivety to extract a few Euros from them.

Their work contract suggests that they should be paid 40 Euros a day, yet many of them barely receive 36 to 37 Euros a day.

In addition to that, they were poorly housed. Generally, they rent a container for 60 Euros a month per person. They are stuffed in these houses, stresses Antonio adding that «they feel cold at night and suffocating from the heat by day».

When working in the fields, they do not have boots and raincoats to protect their bodies. But the worst is when they get sick. Many of them told SAT that to see a doctor they would have to pay 40 Euros.

«They live in inhumane and humiliating conditions», says José Antonio, adding that the body has been pointing at these problems for so many years.

«This year silence has been broken», explained the trade unionist.

Having to go through a traumatic experience like this one, especially during the month of Ramadan, has been exhausting for the Moroccan women, said Antonio.

«I feel bad when I see them suffer. Regardless of their nationality, gender or country of origin, we cannot be indifferent to such abuses».

José Antonio

These Moroccan women, however, still have a valid visa until the end of July, so they are free, said José Antonio. They are supported by the union which closely follows developments of the case.

A march to say yes to strawberries and no to abuse

The syndicate is organizing a march on Sunday, June the 17th, that will be attended by these women. They will rally in Huelva chanting : «Yes to strawberries and no to abuse», said the same source who called other associations in Morocco and in Spain to join the movement.

For the record, only one individual has been arrested in relation with the case. He is a 47-year-old man, accused by four Moroccan women of alleged sexual abuse.

Several women have done the same in the last two weeks, reaching to the authorities to denounce the abuses. A collective complaint was, indeed, filed by hundreds of women in Huelva with the help of the Andalusia Workers Syndicate.

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