Dutch farmer jailed for exploiting foreign workers

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A Dutch farmer was given a suspended two-and-a-half year sentence Tuesday for exploiting foreign workers, mainly Romanians, during the 2009 asparagus harvesting season.

"The suspect exploited a considerable number of foreign workers by making them work long days (on average 10 to 12 hours), with hard physical labour and salaries below the minimum wage," said the ruling by the southern Den Bosch court, published online.

Judges said at least 74 Romanians as well as Poles and Portuguese worked seven days a week on the farm in the southwestern rural area of Someren between March and June 2009.

Workers' wages amounted to just over 0.45 euros ($0.59 dollars) per kilo of asparagus harvested when, according to the Dutch Labour Inspectorate, it should have been 0.59 euros per kilo. Some workers were never paid.

They lived in on-site housing which did not meet safety standards, used "unhygienic sanitary facilities" and had to sleep in rooms without curtains.

Convicted of human trafficking, the unnamed farmer whose sentence was suspended for six months, also forbade her employees from leaving the property after 2000 GMT, using an aggressive dog. She kept some workers' identity documents for "a long time", said the court.

The workers were afraid to leave in case their salaries were not paid at the end of the harvest, the judges said.

Den Bosch prosecutors had demanded a four-year jail sentence for the 48-year-old woman, who was also ordered to pay her former workers about 7,200 euros in damages.

She was already sentenced on July 14 to fines totalling almost 100,000 euros for employing foreign workers without a permit, a Den Bosch court official added.

© 2011 AFP

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