Amnesty International has appealed to the Newry, Mourne & Down District Council to investigate what it claims is the widespread abuse of illegal immigrants by farmers in the south Armagh and south Down areas.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Newry to publicise the results of a year-long investigation, the head of migrants rights division Martin Maguire claimed that Newry & Armagh farmers are exploiting migrants’ fear of deportation to employ them in slave-like conditions, even using them as “human scarecrows.”
We spoke to Mr Maguire who told Newry Spud:
“We interviewed hundreds of migrants from Eastern Europe and frankly the stories they had to tell us were horrifying. Men, women and even children were doing backbreaking work for long hours in return for a pittance in wages — those that were lucky enough to get paid all.”
Newry Spud has revealed that some of the worst abuses involved migrants being dressed in ragged old clothes and tied to posts in freezing fields to act as live scarecrows.
We spoke to one Polish ‘Scarecrow’ who told us:
“Although I couldn’t run away, I could move my arms and that helped me to keep warm as well as scare the birds. Sometimes my arms became too tired to move and the birds would sit on me and shite on my head so I screamed angry Bulgarian folk curses. The farmer didn’t pay me but he let me have a raw turnip every day. I would eat half and save the rest to send back to my family in Poland.”