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29 May, 2024
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Cyprus does right by wronged farm workers

Authorities offer support to Albanian and Indian workers after farm raid reveals signs of exploitation


A foreign worker who says he fell out of status after being wronged in a labor dispute is getting support from Cypriot authorities, along with over a dozen suspected victims of labor exploitation after police, labor, and immigration officers coordinated a raid on a farm in Famagusta district after his complaint.

Police officers from the anti-trafficking unit raided a cattle farm in Ormidia on Wednesday after a worker from Albania filed a complaint with authorities, alleging the boss was failing to compensate foreign workers who were forced to live in unsuitable conditions and often out of legal status.

Last week Knews reported on the worker who said he had contacted authorities to file a complaint and seek damages but no interim solutions could be found, leaving him jobless, penniless, and out of legal status until his day in court.

“I was told that my court case could take a long time, maybe up to a year,” he told Knews, adding that officials could not do anything because he had signed a document that withdrew any claims against his boss.

He maintains he was tricked into signing his release form and further complained about authorities “accepting a document in Greek without any translation offered to the signee.”

'They said I was correct and they saw the conditions, and also that I will get some support and a less restrictive permit that will grant me legal work authorization until things are sorted out'

But this week things were looking up after he received an email from the ombudsm, who provided a direct phone line to an officer with the Commissioner for Administration and the Protection of Human Rights office.

The letter was dated February 8, the day when police joined by local immigration officials and SBA law enforcement officers raided the farm and reportedly found exploitation signs concerning other foreign nationals.

Last week the worker said workers were sleeping on the floor and told Knews he was worried “the boss now will try to fix everything before officials go there to inspect, this is how it’s done here.”

But on Friday he said officials had paid a visit to the farm and found unsuitable conditions.

“They said I was correct and they saw the conditions, and also that I will get some support and a less restrictive permit that will grant me legal work authorization until things are sorted out,” he said.

Similar measures could be expected for other suspected victims, understood to be from India, after a police incident report on Friday said 14 foreign nationals found on the farm had been “taken to a safe location where they can receive support and protection.”

According to police, the operation took place exactly one week after Justice Minister Stefi Dracou and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Anastasia Anthousi came together and signed off on a new framework memorandum for joined operations, following a cooperation agreement on the same day between Cyprus Police and the Department of Labor Inspections.

The Albanian worker had previously alleged that foreign workers at the farm paid thousands of euros to come to Cyprus for work but ended up losing status due to no fault of their own.

“I was even told that food would be provided but instead I had to buy my own food from outside,” he said.

The worker also alleged that newcomers would arrive on the farm every month where there were already other foreign workers, mainly from India, suggesting there was a high turnover rate for manual labor.

“Where do all these people go?” he asked.

“After a couple of months of not getting paid, they are kicked out on the streets and given a release,” he said, while also arguing that those workers ended up turning to the government for protection and asylum.

An anti-trafficking unit is leading the police investigation.

Cyprus  |  Famagusta  |  Ormidia  |  cattle farm  |  foreign worker  |  Albania  |  India  |  labor exploitation  |  police  |  immigration  |  work permit  |  asylum  |  labor dispute

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