African Workers Collective (CTA): Huelva homeless laborers organize themselves while maintaining a protest confinement in Lepe

Associations and individuals bring water and essential items to those locked in the City of Lepe

The CTA aims to raise public awareness about the incomprehensible lack of decent housing for thousands of potential workers in the Huelva field.

A group of day laborers sleeps outside the sports hall to give visibility to the protest that their colleagues keep inside.

The group also demands the regularization of their employment situation and greater diligence of the Immigration Office to process their records of roots and work permits.

The strawberry mill employer looks the other way and considers that the shackiness of its workers is a «social problem» that only concerns Public Administrations.

«We asked for workers, but people came» (Max Frisch)

Note: This article has been translated into English with the "translator" tool from Google. Sorry for possible mistakes.
by Perico Echevarría

Huelva, November 11, 2011. Twenty-seven workers of African origin (from Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Morocco …) have remained until the election day of November 10 inside the City of Lepe Soccer Field, as an act of protest for the lack of decent housing and equal rights for hundreds (thousands during the red fruit harvest season that will begin in a few weeks) of day laborers and laborers in the Huelva agricultural sector. This 10N were evicted by the City Council of the coastal town of Huelva.

From this aborted confinement a protest movement has arisen that, in all probability, will not go unnoticed. The Collective of African Workers (CTA), whose first assemblies have already taken place, and which outlines these days an agenda of activities and actions to raise awareness and protest.

The twenty-seven of the confinement of the City of Lepe entered the sports hall hosted by the City Hall with almost 200 other people on October 14, when the fire devoured the shacks of the «cemetery settlement», built with wooden pallets, cardboard and plastics that, in general, facilitate the businessmen who hire them as laborers. For almost two decades, farms have not stopped growing, nor have the demand for labor demanded by their owners. However, despite being a proven fact, public and -very well-known that this need for workers is only covered by migrant labor, the province of Huelva has not enabled decent spaces for thousands of people to sleep under a decent roof . The settlements (around a dozen in Lepe only) are spread near agricultural municipalities such as Moguer, Lucena, Bonares or Almonte, and in spring they are authentic dormitory cities that trigger the real census of those villages.

Lepe’s, razed by fire and known as the city, remained up for almost two decades, and only the decision of the ownership of the land has prevented its reconstruction after having burned completely or partially. The one on October 14 was the fire number 28 in nine years; to more than three per year. It was also the last. The fencing of the land, executed quickly and accurately the next morning, has prevented the shacks from being lifted again.

The CTA is born to claim the end of shanty towns

CTA volunteers organize the daily provisioning of the day laborers. The image was taken inside the City of Lepe on the night of Thursday, November 7.

It is not, in any case, the intention of the workers who are organizing around the CTA, nor that of the associations and citizen groups that support or spread their struggle. They consider that the time has come to say «no to the shacks» and demand decent accommodation during the months they remain in Huelva working in the strawberry fields.

After the eviction of the City of Lepe ordered last Sunday by the City of Lepe, the CTA has convened its first large demonstration in Lepe for next, November 15 at 6:00 p.m. According to the notification recorded on Monday at the Subdelegation of the Government of Huelva, the demonstration will protest the «forced eviction of people from the San Roque de Lepe stadium on November 10». «Respect for the rights of migrant workers» will also be claimed. They expect to gather around 500 people for this «long release» of the Collective.

Right to decent and safe accommodation that guarantees the minimum parameters of comfort for your stay, rest and shelter during the months of the agricultural campaign. They don’t want it for free, they just ask for a price that is fair and according to the place and salary they receive in the red fruit fields.

They also ask that the Spanish Administration stop looking the other way about its reality and facilitate its regularization in Spain. Many of them have lived in our country for years and transhuman from one agricultural province to another. Very soon some, not a few, will leave for Jaén, where the olive harvest is well paid and it is not difficult to find accommodation in the localities or on the farms themselves. However, the Spanish State still does not recognize their situation as workers, and keeps them in the administrative limbo that mediates between paperless and entrenched. In this situation, some employers take the opportunity to pay them below the salary of the agreement (which barely reaches the Minimum Interprofessional Salary), or they deduct part of the wages for the trips on buses that they themselves charter to take punctually and bring the workers every day from settlements to fields, and from fields to settlements. They think that if their papers were in order, the businessmen would not commit those abuses, or at least, they would be entitled to claim before the Justice like any other citizen.

One of the children of the CTA has been waiting for months for the Immigration Office to give him an appointment to prove that he finally meets the requirements of the Law to obtain documentation and work permit. A businessman from Lepe has promised to make a contract for a year, the last requirement he needed. But if the Office does not process your file soon, the offer will decline and the employer will be forced to fill the vacant position with another person. In all likelihood it will continue to have its services, but it will be an employment relationship outside the law and without the right to quote. And at the risk of a fine for the small farmer who offers wages and wages. «Not all entrepreneurs are bad, those who want to help are also caught,» he says.

 

While explaining his bizarre situation in Spain, with guaranteed work in different agricultural campaigns of different provinces, several-year-old accredited, registered and homeless roots, from the bottom of the street, two other young boys approach carrying a large saucepan, full of Rice with chicken and vegetables that they will share on the steely exterior of the City of Lepe.
The CTA has already held several assemblies. The last one this Sunday to convene the demonstration of Vienna. 15. The Collective of African Workers has decided to become a spokesperson for their demands and those who claim that their rights as direct interlocutors with society. From now on, homeless African workers will speak through the CTA. They are also maintaining contacts and conversations with the other settlements in the province of Huelva, to make the vast group of African workers affected by the lack of decent housing (and other rights) larger and more visible, and to realize joint actions that increase the echo of their mobilizations.
In a few weeks they expect to have a road map, a plan of activities and protest actions to be developed during the red fruit harvesting campaign, when thousands of workers with and without papers arrive in Huelva and settle for months in the settlement of infraviviendas in which they are forced to live. The first major mass act the campaign will be a day of General Strike and another great demonstration in Lepe. They hope to have, on this and next Friday’s, the support of workers from all sectors, unions, parties, social groups and citizens in general.
«A matter of will»
Homeless workers in Huelva know they are necessary for the Huelva agricultural sector. They make up a workforce without whose presence in Huelva the berry industry could not survive. A few days ago, the president of the Huelva businessmen, José Luis García Palacios, complained that the lack of interest of the Spanish day laborers in their job offer could jeopardize the harvest, forcing them to hire tens of thousands of foreign workers. Mainly, from Romania, Poland and Bulgaria, EU countries that have not yet adopted the euro as currency. 19,000 will be women hired at source and temporarily imported from Morocco. If the workers forced to live in shacks decided to leave, or if the State decided to intervene on their situation (that is, detain them and intern them in CIES until a judge decides on their stay or extradition), administrative, social, and over-chaos could result. All, economical of unpredictable dimensions.
As can be seen in the images that La Mar de Onuba has obtained exclusively, the twenty-seven interior will keep this twenty-seventh night of confinement on a few mattresses on Saturday, and will be covered with blankets provided by the Red Cross and other organizations after the fire . They do not know how many more days the «tolerance» of the City Council (or the president of the football club) will resist, but they say they are determined to hold the protest until they are offered «a decent housing solution.» Or force them out by force. In that case, they will offer «passive resistance», and will call for the mobilization of the new collective of African Workers, the name by which the large group of day laborers on the other side of the Strait wants to be known, determined to make themselves heard more and better from now on. .
Only in the last week, the CTA has held several assemblies. The first, at the football gate itself, among the group of young workers who sleep every night to give support and visibility to the protest that takes place inside, hidden in the eyes of public opinion. Almost a hundred people participated in the last meeting, and decisions began to be made.
The first of them, become the first voice that vindicates their rights and direct interlocutors with society. They want to continue counting on the associations that help them and thank them for their support, their resources, and the personal delivery of their members, but from now on, homeless African workers will speak through the CTA.
They are also maintaining contacts and conversations with the other settlements in the province of Huelva, to make the vast group of African workers affected by the lack of decent housing (and other rights) larger and more visible, and to realize joint actions that increase the echo of their mobilizations.

 

In principle, and as long as those locked up in the soccer field are not evicted, they will continue to hold rallies at the door of the City of Lepe and hold more assemblies that strengthen the CTA. Later, within a few weeks, they plan to make their first major «massive» act, calling a day of General Strike in full swing of the strawberry harvesting campaign (when thousands of workers without accommodation live in the settlements) and a large demonstration in Lepe in which they hope to count on the support of workers from all sectors, unions, parties, social groups and citizens in general.

In a way, and despite their precarious situation, they have become aware of the most basic premise of every protest movement: unity is strength. That union is the first challenge of the CTA. For what? So that their status as workers, on the part of the system, is recognized and an end to the indignity of the suburbs settlements inhabited by thousands of homeless laborers, many without a legal contract; essential pieces of a sector that is «a vanguard model«, according to the description made by the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Development of the Junta de Andalucía, Carmen Crespo.
They also know that finding a decent solution to their situation is only a matter of the will of all the parties involved. They smile every time they are mentioned the meetings, tables and plans with which the political representatives say they seek a permanent solution for them. They have been seen and heard every time they have burned their shacks (the extinct city, 28 times in the last nine years), and their tragic loss of sub-housing and personal belongings is made a hole in the national news. But never, in the last twenty years, and while the settlements grew and multiplied, have they seen a real, consensual and definitive proposal.

For example, they are aware that there is an entrepreneur interested in building modular accommodation with the capacity to house about a thousand people on land very close to Lepe. His proposal is to do business by charging an affordable amount to day laborers. To CTA the idea the proposal seems an agile and effective solution, if all parties do their part. Transfer of land, building permits, sanitation, municipal licenses … The City Council of Lepe has confirmed to this magazine the existence of this proposal of a private investor, but the reduction to a «mere idea without form» still, which will be studied when the concrete developer «in more detail».

Other entrepreneurs who fill their strawberry boxes with labor that lives in the sub-housing settlements, look the other way. They refuse to have any responsibility in the serious problem of the shanty town of Huelva, or in the marginality in which their own workers live. His response, through the interprofessional Interfresa is this: «We have nothing to say about it. We refer to administrations with competences in social matters that are the ones that have to take measures about the situation of these people ». Sic transit gloria mundi. Huelva


¹The phrase «We asked for labor and people arrived» – was pronounced in 1965 by the Swiss writer Max Frisch, referring to those who emigrated to Switzerland in that decade, coming largely from Spain, Italy and Portugal, and affects the distance that there is the impersonal consideration of the worker to the rich texture of the real lives of immigrants as people.

Access the original article in Spanish

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Revista onubense de Actualidad, Cultura y Ocio, editada por AC LAMDO, entidad sin ánimo de lucro inscrita en el Registro de Asociaciones de Andalucía con el número 4318 de la Sección 1. Director: Perico Echevarría - © Copyright LAMDO 2017 / ISSN 2603-817X

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