Immigrants, Gangmasters’ and Land Industry

Whilst working on a construction site on the Algarve, an ‘illegal’ economic migrant fell to his death. As the foundations were still open, it was easy for all to simply bury the man in concrete and say nothing. An urban myth? Possibly… However similar stories are commonplace among the migrant workforce population, and some sound far too plausible to be merely taken with a pinch of salt when you come to understand the life’s these people live.

The system is not as black and white as the media and subsequently the politicians like to pretend it is. The way the migrants to Europe and from within Europe have been treated is as shameful as anywhere else in the world. The tricks and loopholes used by those society deem to regard as leading enviable or exemplary life’s to secure labour at as little cost as possible have to be exposed. And it is hardly as though it is that well hidden in the first place.

Some ‘English language’ facebook group forums in the South of France included comments discussing the Syrian refugee crisis as a positive as they would be able to profit by the plight of these people by offering them free accommodation and food in exchange for working on their estates. Mention that this is in fact slavery and expect to pounced upon as though this ‘offer’ to the refugees was a great philanthropic act.

In my last post I wrote of the threats to trees in the Cote d’Azur; a region which sets a precedence for many other landscapes due to being heavily influenced by and designed to and for the super rich. As a consequence there is inevitably huge shoals of human vultures chasing as much stray money as possible. The worst of these are the gangmasters’, it is they who prey on the economic migrants, be they legal, illegal or seeking refugee status. And they do so, as with some of the estate owners, in the full belief that they are helping!

They offer accommodation, food and a portion of a ‘salary’ every week, (often ‘looking after’ the remaining money!). Most of all they offer security, but in doing so illegalise some of those who were legal before.

And the authorities can do very little (due to the risk of offending those that governments follow themselves) except establish even more regulations – which equals more costs for legal businesses, and therefore push even more ‘clients’ towards using the highly attractive services of a gangmaster. The stereotype image of gangmaster is not what will be in your heads right now. They are usually well dressed, very amiable, speak many languages and say all the right things.

And because they operate illegally – all they do is illegal. Trees will be felled, pollutants spilled, plastics burned etc., etc.

Gangmasters undermine not only the economy, but any hope of sustainable progress and thus a real threat to trees, forests and the wider landscape.

Whilst the cosy term ‘Expat’ may comfort we Brits, we are simply immigrants to our hosts. And with Brexit comes the uncertainty of what kind of immigrant we are and how our hosts will perceive us. Then what? Do we have to enter this evidently growing world of gangmastery – either as gangmasters ourselves or their prey, as clients or even as one of their ‘charges’.

And this is no alien subject to the UK itself, whilst the problem is not as widespread as it is elsewhere, it still threatens us all. And whilst we can no longer expect any sensible debate about migrants to come out of Britain, it must be shouted more loudly and as often as possible that they are not the problem! And if we had a Europe which had bothered to discuss and put in place a strategy to truly help those seeking help then maybe we would not be pulling the rug up from beneath all of our collective feet and destroying our economy by chasing the lifestyle of people who should not and never be listened to.



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