Staff in ‘near slavery’ on asparagus farm

Social affairs ministry inspectors are assessing whether criminal charges can be brought against the owner of an asparagus farm in Brabant, where 50 people were found living in conditions of ‘near slavery’ on Friday.

The 50 workers, including many Romanians, were living on the farm in a dirty room without windows.
‘They were not allowed to leave the premises. They were payed less than promised and their employer forced them to buy food and other essentials from him at inflated prices,’ Someren mayor Alfred Veltman told news agency ANP. He described the conditions as ‘near slavery’.
Officials had been given the go ahead to clear the farm because the sleeping area broke fire rules. It was then that they discovered the conditions the workers were living in, ANP said.
A spokeswoman for the labour inspectorate said poor housing for foreign staff was common, both in urban and rural areas. But the situation in Sommeren was particularly extreme, ANP reported her as saying.
The owner of the asparagus farm has already been fined a total of €566,000 since 2005 for for breaking the law on employing illegal immigrants and paying below the minimum wage.
Last year, some 2,300 fines for employing illegal labour were handed out in the Netherlands.

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