ROME — Five Romanians have been arrested in Sicily for allegedly exploiting other Romanians as unpaid farmworkers and prostitutes, police said Wednesday.
The investigation, in Ragusa, Sicily, discovered that minors and elderly were among those exploited, police said.
Investigators said that 13 workers, some of them illiterate or homeless, were tricked into thinking they were coming to Italy for properly paid jobs and housing. Police say they were given rotten food, clothes picked out of trash containers, unheated housing and no wages.
Police official Antonino Ciavola also said minor girls were forced into prostitution.
Violence was allegedly inflicted on those who tried to rebel. Eventually, a Romanian worker went to the police.
Those arrested were jailed for investigation of suspected human trafficking, exploitation of prostitutes and sexual exploitation of minors.
Long hours for wages often far under union scale and poor labor conditions have been a longstanding problem for farmworkers in Italy, mainly in the south. They often depend on go-betweens to procure them day work. Past raids on orchards or fields of crops have revealed that the exploited include workers from Africa and Europe — including Poland, Ukraine and Bulgaria — as well as Italians.
Last week, a farm worker from Mali who had a work permit was shot to death in southern Calabria when he allegedly trespassed on property to scavenge construction material to improve the housing for fellow migrant farmworkers. The killing is under investigation.