Severe labour exploitation of migrant workers is a reality, now, in Europe and in the twenty-first century. The extreme form this can take was tragically demonstrated this week, when migrant strawberry pickers in Greece were shot at by their employers for simply asking to be paid.
“Time and time again we see vulnerable workers being abused for economic gain. We’ve seen it with migrant workers in strawberry fields, on farms picking asparagus, in people’s homes as domestic workers, and in many other areas,” said FRA Director Morten Kjaerum. “Such labour exploitation has been termed modern-day slavery and indeed, the practice is as horrific today as it was in eras long gone.”
To gauge the extent of such practices, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights continues to examine the phenomenon of labour exploitation. This year, FRA will collect information on severe forms of labour exploitation in the EU Member States through interviews with labour inspectorates, law enforcement officers and immigration officials, as well as with victims themselves. It will look into the risk factors associated with labour exploitation and means of effective prevention. The study will also shed light on the obstacles that hinder victims of severe forms of labour exploitation from accessing justice, including claims for back payment from employers. The results of the research will assist EU policy makers and national governments in combating labour exploitation and protecting the right of every worker to fair working conditions that respect their health, safety and dignity.
Research shows that criminal forms of labour exploitation have an impact both on nationals of EU Member States and migrant workers. FRA believes Member States need to take greater action to uphold their obligations under the Charter of Fundamental Rights, for example to combat discrimination and labour exploitation. Such practices violate not only the rights of the victims themselves, but also the right of vulnerable groups to be effectively protected, and the interests of society at large.