Writing Task / Group Work. Agricultural Migrant Workers in Europe: the Case of Campobello di Mazara

The European migration regime produces produces various kinds of precarious housing conditions. Some are created by states in the form of housing and confinement in shelters, detention centres and camps (Kreichauf, 2019). Along the transit routes, informal settlements and dwellings often emerge as self-made structures (Katz, 2017; Katz et al., 2018).

Another form of migration-related informal settlement is the agricultural ghetto.It is prevalent in Southern Europe and especially in the countries of Greece, Spain and Italy (Corrado et al., 2018). In these countries, thousands of migrants work in the agricultural sector. They produce cheap oranges, tomatoes or olives for European end consumers. Semi-legal or illegal, labor relations are widespread, and it is not uncommon that criminal or mafia structures are involved in the exploitative activities (Hoffmann, 2017; Palumbo, 2016; Reckinger, 2019). Since wages (often paid as piece-work wages) are rarely sufficient to rent apartments, workers often life in in self-built, informal dwellings. In some cases, there are only a few huts directly adjacent to the fields, but in others, large settlements are built.

1) Read: To get an idea of the housing conditions in an agricultural ghetto, read these testimonies of agricultural workers in the area of Campobello di Mazara, Italy. Additionally, take a look at this essay on African migrant workers in Calabria.

2) Reflect: Form a group of 3-4 people and discuss the following questions. If you work alone, write down your answers (about 100-200 words per question).

  • Did you know about the precarious housing and working conditions of agricultural workers before reading the two provided sources? If yes, where did you learn about it? If no, were you surprised to hear about them?
  • Do you think the working and living conditions of agricultural workers are a form of exploitation? Why (not)?
  • Do you know about similar phenomena in your region?
  • In which ways do you think is your daily life connected to the situation of agricultural workers in Southern Italy?


3) Dig deeper: To understand more about precarious housing of agricultural workers in Europe read (at least one) of the following sources and take notes to answer the guiding question provided. If you work in a group, divide the sources; if you work alone, pick one. 

  • To understand more of the broader context of the exploitation of migrant workers in Italian agriculture, read this analysis elaborated by the Open Society Institute.
    Guiding questions: What are the political and economic conditions of the exploitation of migrant workers in Italy? What are differences and similarities in regards to the situation in Spain and Greece?

  • To learn more about the vulnerability of migrant workers in the agricultural system, read this policy brief.
    Guiding questions: How does the Italian immigration system produce migrant workers vulnerability? What are the consequences of this vulnerability in regards to physical and mental health?        

  • Do you think that the exploitation of migrant workers in agriculture is just a Southern European phenomenon? Take a look at these case studies from Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, collected by the Open Society Institute.
    Guiding questions: What are similarities and differences regarding the working and housing conditions in different countries?

  • Looking for alternatives? Explore this homepage of the EU-funded Rural Social Act  project (Italian language).
    Guiding questions: What kind of projects do they present? How are they related to the phenomenon? How do they try to make a difference?


 4) Analyze: Now get together again as a group. Share your findings and complete the following tasks.

  • Create a mind map or a table: It should cover the social, economic, cultural and spatial (architecture and infrastructure) reasons for the precarious living conditions of migrant workers in the agricultural sector in European countries.
  • Discuss and collect: What could be done to improve the situation of agricultural migrant workers? Create a bullet point list, which includes at least 8 potential strategies. Differentiate between the individual, the local, the national and the European level.

    • Alternative task for individual work: Write an essay (about 800 to 1200 words), in which you present the social,  economic, cultural and spatial conditions of the exploitation of migrant workers in the European agriculture. Discuss 2-3 potential strategies to improve their situation.



Corrado, A., Caruso, F. S., Triandafyllidou, A., & Lo Cascio, M. (2018). Is Italian Agriculture a “Pull Factor” for Irregular Migration – and, if so, why? Open Society Foundations. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/uploads/ba12312d-31f1-4e29-82bf-7d8c41df48ad/is-italian-agriculture-a-pull-factor-for-irregular-migration-20181205.pdf 

Hoffmann, F. (2017). Zur kommerziellen Normalisierung illegaler Migration: Akteure in der Agrarindustrie von Almería, Spanien. transcript.

Katz, I. (2017). Between Bare Life and Everyday Life: Spatializing Europe’s Migrant Camps. Architecture_MPS. https://doi.org/10.14324/111.444.amps.2017v12i2.001

Katz, I., Martín, D., & Minca, C. (Eds.). (2018). Camps revisited: Multifaceted spatialities of a modern political technology. Rowman & Littlefield International.

Kreichauf, R. (2019). From Forced Migration to Forced Arrival: The Campization of Refugee Accommodation in European Cities. In B. Meeus, K. Arnaut, & B. van Heur (Eds.), Arrival Infrastructures: Migration and Urban Social Mobilities. Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-91167-0

Palumbo, L. (2016). Trafficking and labour exploitation in domestic work and the agricultural sector in Italy. Publications Office. https://data.europa.eu/doi/10.2870/384097

Reckinger, G. (2019). Bittere Orangen: Ein neues Gesicht der Sklaverei in Europa (2. Auflage). Peter Hammer Verlag GmbH.

Schneider, J., Götte, M., Siegman, K. A., Williams, T., Palumbo, L., & Alessandro Corrado. (2020). Are Agri-Food Workers Only Exploited in Souther Europe? Case Studies on Migrant Labour in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. Open Society Foundations. https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/uploads/d953836c-8b9a-4cb5-bd48-0060f17cfeb5/are-agrifood-workers-only-exploited-in-southern-europe-20200715-report.pdf


Last modified: Wednesday, 14 September 2022, 10:56 AM