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July 2004, Volume 10, Number 3


Britain, Russia

UK. British farmers employ over 25,000 mostly Eastern European workers to harvest and pack fruits and vegetables, and disputes about their housing have appeared in rural areas. A plan to house 2,000 migrant strawberry pickers in caravans (campers) at Brierley Farm in Leominster was rejected in May 2004, with local residents citing adverse impacts on the environment.

Prince Charles has a farm in Gloucestershire that uses migrants to hand-weed organically grown crops. Gangmaster Zad Padda, who says he is cooperating with the government to crack down on illegal migrants, supplies Indians and Iraqis who are brought by minibus from Birmingham to the Prince's farm.

The ceilings on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers (SAWS), currently 25,000, and for the Sectors Based Schemes (SBS), 10,000 for the hospitality sector and 10,000 for food processing, will be reduced by 35 and 25 percent in 2005, to 16,250 and 15,000. The schemes are used to bring migrant workers from Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria and Romania. In summer 2004, newspapers sent reporters into the fields, and one reported being paid 17p to pick 400g of strawberries that retailed for L2 to L4; the minimum wage is L4.50 an hour.

In May 2004, gangmasters were bringing crews of 30 to 35 Chinese migrants back to Morecambe Bay to pick cockles, a seafood delicacy similar to clams, are exported to Holland for processing, then shipped to Spain and the Far East. Many are from Fujian, and are smuggled into the UK by snakehead gangs to work in restaurants. However, stepped up enforcement has pushed more migrants into rural areas, where they often work in agriculture and fishing. English buyers pay Å“12.50 per bag of cockles to the Chinese gangmasters, who in turn pay the workers Å“10 per bag; most workers harvest three bags a day, earning Å“30 a day and working seven days a week.

Some 30 Chinese workers were caught by a fast-moving tide in Morecambe Bay in northwest England while picking cockles on February 5, 2004; 20 drowned.

Russia. Russia's sparsely populated Far East is drawing Korean and Chinese share croppers and farm workers to grow fruits and vegetables, reflecting a 2003 Russian law that permits foreigners to sign 49 year leases on farm land and falling water tables in northern China. Wheat production has increased in the Black Sea area, but cucumbers, cabbages and tomatoes dominate in the Far East, and there are predictions of Chinese agricultural colonies.

Russia is the world's largest country, almost twice the size of Canada or the United States, and has land borders with 14 countries, the most of any country.

One Moscow forecaster urged the Russian government to permit 10 million to 20 million Chinese immigrants to settle in the Far East to replace young Russians who leave. President Vladimir Putin in January 2004 said that Russia "is in need of inflow of migrants [but] order should be established" in managing migration. He continued: "Control over illegal migration is a relatively new problem for Russia, but it has acquired top priority over recent years."

James Brooke, "New Face of Farming in Russia's Far East," New York Times, July 8, 2004.

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