Borders and Migration

After entry: Humanitarian exploitation and migrant labour in the fields of southern Italy

Since the so-called ‘refugee crisis’, research on migration in the Euro-Mediterranean region has highlighted the entanglement of humanitarian and securitarian logics in the transformation of the EU border regime, with most attention focused on rescue and push-back operations at sea and systems of detention, selection and reception on land. This article moves beyond the point of arrival to examine how humanitarianism has also been implicated in the management of migrant labour in agriculture. Focusing on the tomato districts of southern Italy, the article interrogates the recent legislative and emergency measures devised to tackle labour violations and to facilitate the reproduction of the workforce. Measures have included the establishment of impromptu worker shelters run by humanitarian organizations and the recourse to criminal law to combat gangmasters and to assuage public opinion. By developing the conceptual framework of humanitarian exploitation, the article illustrates how humanitarian government is functional both to the regulation of the migrant workforce and to the maintenance of the industrial agri-food system.

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Volume 41 Issue 1

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