Lalla Mimouna disaster: hundreds of Moroccan agricultural workers affected by the coronavirus

On June 19, 2020, at a strawberry processing unit in Lalla Mimouna, in the west of Morocco, more than 600 migrant farm workers tested positive for Coronavirus, a majority of them women. 

FNSA, the local member of La Via Campesina in Morocco has called out the contemptuous treatment meted out to migrant workers, and the government’s appalling neglect of the workers’ plight. It has also warned of such recurrence in other regions of the country. 

On June 20, the federation members released a press release, that reads as follows; 

La Fédération Nationale du Secteur Agricole (FNSA) – affiliated to the Moroccan Labor Union, is following with great concern the spread of the coronavirus pandemic among hundreds of agricultural workers on the farms of production of red fruits and refrigeration and packaging stations in the village of Lalla Maimouna. 

The cases of infection reached the families of the workers and their entourage in several villages and the districts of the city of Souk Larbaa Algharb. A state of panic has spread throughout the region, which is experiencing excessive agricultural activity despite the repeated warning about the horrific operating conditions of hundreds of thousands of workers. 

La Fédération Nationale du Secteur Agricole (FNSA) condemns the contemptous attitude of agricultural employers towards their workers.  

 “Lalla Mimouna disaster” is the result of unsafe working conditions in which agricultural workers have been working before and during the pandemic. FNSA has long confronted those responsible for this situation and alerted the Ministry of Labor and Professional Integration and the Ministry of Agriculture so that they assume full responsibility for the case, caused by the humiliating and dangerous conditions of transport and the working conditions qualifying as modern slavery.

In light of the above,

  • We express our solidarity with the workers and citizens who are infected. We demand that they are taken care of and cared for in the conditions of accommodation. We insist that they receive the adequate and quality treatment necessary to save their lives and that their cases be considered as occupational diseases, to protect their rights.
  • We hold the government fully responsible for the maintenance of agricultural activities not necessary for food, in the sole interest of agribusinesses, despite the threat to the safety and health of workers and citizens in general. This action has led to the appearance of new pandemic outbreaks. It has further stressed the emergency response system of the State.
  • We attribute the responsibility for the spread of covid19 in the Lalla Mimouna region, and the resulting State of general panic, to the public authorities responsible for monitoring compliance with the health emergency measures at the local and provincial level. 
  • We denounce the delay caused in the decision to close the packing areas and stations in the Lail Maimouna and Moulay Bousselham region. It is an attempt to obscure the responsibilities and to escape carrying out preventive covid19 contamination tests, even though workers and residents of the area have been asking for it since the beginning of May.  
  • We consider that one of the leading causes of the disaster is the exclusion of agricultural workers from the compensation of workers on sick leave due to the pandemic. We call for an immediate end to this discrimination which pushes agricultural workers to agree to work at all costs and fall prey to savage employers and profit-seeking intermediaries.
  • We call on all Allied working-class forces to step up their support for agricultural workers who face exploitation and oppression in the Western Region and across the country. We urge everyone to support the workers in their fight against discrimination and humiliation. We stand for their right to organize. 

Finally, the La Fédération Nationale du Secteur Agricole (FNSA) reiterates its firm condemnation of the government agencies concerned and of the agribusinesses that are directly responsible for the Lalla Mimouna disaster and the possible spread of the pandemic in other regions experiencing the same conditions. 

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