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16 foreign farm labourers killed in two crashes in Italy

AFP  |  Rome 

Sixteen foreign agricultural workers died in two separate crashes within the space of 48 hours in southern Italy, prompting the government today to respond to the plight of pickers during season.

Both crashes took place near the city of in the Puglia region, with 12 people -- all non-EU citizens -- killed in a crash today, the Italian fire service said.

Italian media reported that the workers were being taken back to their makeshift homes after a day's work when their van slammed head-on into a lorry transporting harvested tomatoes.

On Saturday, four African farm workers were killed and four others seriously injured in another collision with a truck.

Every summer thousands of labourers from around and work in the area picking tomatoes under the blazing sun.

Although most of those working in the fields in have regular papers, rarely do they receive the benefits and salaries required by law and many live in squalid conditions.

They are often at the mercy of day labourer recruiters -- sometimes linked to organised crime -- who operate as intermediaries and collect a portion of the workers' pay.

Otherwise, the workers are forced to organise themselves independently, coming to wark by bicycle or in dilapidated and overcrowded vehicles.

For years, unions and associations that help migrant workers have called for a public transport system to be created around for the peak season.

The Puglia region has now budgeted for such a system, said on Monday, but he added that cooperation and transparency from the farms was crucial.

Farmers in the region are also struggling, with large retailers forcing down the price of produce.

Luigi Di Maio, who is also co-deputy of the anti-establishment Five that governs with the anti-migrant League, promised today to increase the number of inspectors in the region.

He called the current situation "a shameful system that exploits the desperation of people willing to do anything to work".

said he would travel to on Tuesday.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, August 07 2018. 02:20 IST