Migrant farm workers in Sinaloa. Migrant farm workers in Sinaloa. Truck was stopped by police for being overloaded.

Workers trade poverty for something worse

Study finds many migrant farm workers must work under deplorable conditions

Daily sustenance consisting of nothing more than bread, coffee and dirty drinking water, no access to bathrooms and cramped living spaces.

Those are just some of the deplorable conditions that migrant workers within Mexico are forced to endure, according to the National Network of Agricultural Day Laborers (RENACJJA).

Wages as low as 32 pesos (US $1.72) per day, constant exposure to risks that endanger emotional and physical well-being and the danger of becoming a victim of human trafficking are among other conditions the workers face.

Over the past three years, the network has documented the precarious work, health and living conditions of men and women who have left their home states in an attempt to escape poverty.

Through testimonies given by the workers, known as day laborers or jornaleros, the organization has established that the situations that many of the workers end up in are just as bad, if not worse, than the lives they left behind.

The network documented cases in several Mexican states including the northern border states of Chihuahua, Sonora and Coahuila as well as states in the center and south of the country such as Chiapas, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosí.

It found that workers are often lured by false promises of good wages, comfortable places to stay and access to education for their children. But in many cases the reality turns out to be much different.

RENACJJA also documented cases where children worked alongside their parents in the fields rather than attending school and even detected instances where minors had died from preventable diseases due to the conditions they were forced to endure and lack of access to medical care.

Forced disappearances — in some cases en masse — are also a risk to the economic migrants, who are especially vulnerable while they travel from their homes to distant states in pursuit of employment.

In 2004, 200 workers from the municipality of Mazatlán Villa de Flores, Oaxaca, disappeared on their way to Sinaloa while more recently, in 2010, a group of workers from Xilitla, San Luis Potosí, went missing from a region near that state’s border with Tamaulipas.  The threat continues to loom over the itinerant workers today.

There are 3 million people across the country who work in the agricultural sector, according to an employment survey carried out by the national statistics institute, Inegi, and when family members of workers are added, the figure rises to 12 million.

Of that number, more than a million are migrant day laborers, meaning that they are at risk of suffering under inhumane working conditions.

RENACJJA made a series of recommendations to combat the issues identified in its report.

They include establishing an up-to-date registry of migrant, agricultural day laborers, redesigning and implementing public policies to address the problems, and guaranteeing the rights of all jornaleros with special emphasis placed on those considered most vulnerable because of their gender, age, ethnicity or social class.

It also recommended that all three levels of government collaborate with migrant workers and members of civil society to come up with strategies to ensure that fair and humane living and working conditions are achieved.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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