This year, Europe has seen unprecedented numbers of refugees and other migrants cross over its borders – well in excess of 350,000 people, who – driven by fear of war and terror or by poverty and the promise of a better life – have made the treacherous journey by land and sea out of the Middle East and Africa.
Very few of them will have official status or the right documents, most are short of money and don’t know how they will survive, but all hope they will find a safe haven – be it temporary or permanent – in a continent that seems peaceful, prosperous and secure. And for some – the fortunate minority – that is indeed what they will find. They will be taken care of. But many won’t. Desperate, vulnerable and ever fearful of deportation as illegal immigrants, they will be forced to live on the margins, to go wherever they can, and take on whatever work they can get to survive.
And that can lead them wide open to exploitation.
This is the illuminating story of just one group of last summer’s arrivals: migrants into southern Italy who became reluctant recruits in a vast army of casual farm labourers. It is a story that says as much about modern Europe as it does about the migrants as the story touches the tens of millions of the continent’s citizens who purchase or consume one of Italy’s most famous foodstuffs: its rich, sweet, sun-ripened tomatoes.