Romanian workers found living in dire circumstances on Limburg farm
Over 50 Romanian nationals were found living and working under ‘inhuman circumstances’ on a farm in Linne in Limburg last week but the group have since disappeared, after the owner was ordered to find them new accommodation.
A check by Maasgouw local council, the police, and the social affairs inspectorate found the men, who were employed to harvest asparagus, in a ‘crowded and filthy house without fire safety measures and barricaded doors and windows’.
‘I have seldom seen such inhuman circumstances,’ local mayor Stef Strous told a number of news outlets.
The men were ‘timid’, the mayor said, and seemed to be frightened of the foreman who showed ‘intimidating behaviour’ towards the men as well as the officials. A number of the men said via interpreters that they had been hit.
The owner of the farm was told to provide better accommodation for the men within two days or risk a fine. However, the local council was later told the men had all left.
‘We don’t know where they are, but at least they are no longer in this dangerous situation,’ Stours said. ‘It sounds harsh but the local council is only responsible for housing and fire safety. The rest is up to the police and the inspectorate.’
A spokesman for the inspectorate told NOS that officials are now trying to establish if the farm owner broke any laws.
The situation on the farm is the latest in a string of scandals involving seasonal workers, mainly from eastern Europe, and again highlights the ineffectiveness of current legislation to protect them.
Former MP Emile Roemer, who chairs a government committee set up to suggest changes to the law, told broadcaster NOS that ‘this happens every five minutes and there is a lot that is happening under the radar.’
Roemer said that one of the problems in the detection of abuse is that seasonal workers are often not registered, or registered under their address in their home countries.
‘If we don’t know where they are we can’t check or make sure the rules are being followed. They are then in the hands of crooked landlords and shady jobs agencies,’ he said.
Roemer and his team have put together a list of 50 recommendations but that has been put on hold pending the formation of a new government. ‘It is taking too long and I hope MPs will press for immediate action,’ Roemer said. ‘The situation in Limburg shows how bad things are. And it’s happening all the time.’
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