Wide Angle

Yatim hails the Ministry’s program while women in Huelva say they were exploited and harassed

While several other Moroccan women in Huleva denounce abuses, Employment and Vocational Training Minister Mohamed Yatim hails the sending program. The latter allows several Moroccan women to work in Spain’s strawberry fields through seasonal contracts.

Moroccan strawberry pickers in Huelva./Ph. AFP -Cristina Quicler
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In Southern Spain, ten Moroccan women picking strawberries to earn a living told AFP they have been «lied to, exploited and even sexually harassed».

Once in Spain, these women faced the ugly truth, realizing that they had tight work schedules and accommodations to pay for. However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was related to sexual harassment they found themselves unable to ignore.

Denouncing the abuses, Moroccan farm workers made headlines in Morocco and in Spain, revealing details of a huge issue. More than 12 women reported sexual abuses to the Spanish police. They are currently housed and protected by local union SAT. According to AFP, five of these women filed official complaints while others are willing to do the same.

Before speaking up about the abuses, Moroccan workers in Huelva referred to their vulnerability while in the fields. «What is in the contract has nothing to do with reality», Moroccan strawberry picker, who was nicknamed Layla, told AFP.

Lied to and harassed

Layla used to work for Donana 1998, a company that denied all allegations and attempted to send workers home earlier this month, claiming that it was the end of the harvest.

Meanwhile, 35-year-old picker Abida told the French agency that before leaving for Spain she signed a contract in Morocco, indicating that she would receive «a salary of 39 to 40 Euros ($46 to $47) a day for six-and-a-half hours of work, with one day off every week».

However, once in Huelva, Abida said that they «were told it was the second harvest» and that they would be paid 75 cents for every five kilograms they manage to pick.

«We had to pick strawberries very, very, quickly», she said, fearing being banned from work.

While the two women denounced the working conditions in Huelva’s fields, 23-year-old Charifa said she was humiliated by her boss who offered her 50 Euros in exchange for sex. Fadila, 29, also shared her story, telling the same source that after she was sexually harassed by her boss who offered to give her a ride.

«I had to fight him in the front seat, he grabbed me and kissed me forcefully, and he touched my breasts», she said.

Hailing the program

On the other hand, and as the strawberry picking season is reaching an end, Minister of Employment and Vocational Training announced that this year’s operation has been conducted in «good conditions», referring to the program signed with the Spanish government to ensure the sending of Moroccan strawberry pickers to Huelva.

In a communiqué relayed by MAP, the ministry indicated that Moroccan women sent back to the Kingdom after the end of the harvest have arrived to Morocco safe and sound.

The same source indicated that Morocco is keen to renew the program set by the two governments.

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