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 tomato pickers during harvest season.
Both crashes took place near the city of Foggia 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 tomato truck.
Although most of those working in the fields in Italy 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.
Farmers in the region are also struggling, with large retailers forcing down the price of produce.
Labour minister Luigi Di Maio, who is also co-deputy prime minster and the leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement 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".
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)