Blood harvest: Coca Cola challenged over orange trade linked to 'exploitation and squalor'

| 24th February 2012
oranges migrant workers coca cola
Oranges harvested in the Rosarno area of Calabria are mainly used for juice or soft drinks
The manufacturer of Fanta is being urged to help address the poor conditions and low wages endured by some African migrant workers harvesting oranges in southern Italy. Andrew Wasley reports from Rosarno
 

It is perhaps the worst address in Western Europe. A ramshackle slum with a noisy road on one side, a railway on another, and a stagnant-looking river flowing close-by. The camp itself consists of little more than a collection of shoddily-erected canvas tents and some abandoned buildings and sheds.

Behind the wire fence, fires burn amid piles of rubbish – discarded wholesale-sized tins of olive oil, plastic bottles, newspapers, food scraps and other unidentifiable filth. Woodsmoke stings your eyes. As the winter sun falls, the scene is almost apocalyptic; dozens of migrants swarm around us – cooking, chopping firewood, calling out, trying to keep warm – their figures silhouetted against the flames.

They are from Africa – Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast – and this squalid camp, where doctors say conditions are as bad, or worse, than in refugee camps in war zones, is currently home to at least two hundred itinerants.

The migrants are here in Rosarno, in Calabria, southern Italy, to harvest the region's extensive orange crop. Each winter, as many as 2000 migrants travel to this small agricultural town to scratch a living picking oranges that will end up on sale in markets and supermarkets, or as juices or concentrates used in the manufacture of soft drinks.

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