Italy has seen an influx of over 650,000 sub-Saharan African migrants since 2014.
Since coming ashore, many migrants have struggled to find jobs which have good working conditions.
African migrant laborers have gone on strike in Italy following an incident during which 16 workers died in road crashes. The workers died within 48 hours of each other in two separate accidents.
During both incidents, workers carrying tomatoes were plowed over by vans which bring laborers home after work.
On Saturday, four more workers were killed in a crash in the Puglia region. Two days later, 12 more people died in a head-on collision near Lesina.
Recruiters who are allegedly linked to organized criminal activity transport migrant workers from farm to farm in congested vans, and do not provide work contracts.
The unions’ demands include a public transportation system to help migrants during the busy summer months.
Marching down Foggia in southern Italy, farm workers shouted “we are not slaves” in unison.
Red hats were worn at the marches, which are reminiscent of the hats worn around Foggia by tomato pickers.
Last month, Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi stated that while the EU is negotiating its existing immigration policy, Italy would accept vessels containing African migrants for five weeks.
Thousand of laborers traveled to Italy in the summer, many earning below the legal working wage. Picking 100 kg (221 lbs) of tomatoes is equivalent to one euro ($1.15).
The workers are forced into living in shanty towns which lack electricity and water.
In an unregulated industry, the laborers are treated like slaves.
“There is no other work here for us and they know it, so they take advantage,” Ibrahim Sissoko told Reuters.
Puglia’s governor, Michele Emiliano, joined the marched and tweeted that the protestors are fighting for “the dignity of work.”
Featured Image via MAPS.