Advocates for immigrant farm workers in British Columbia are begging for help, amid the devastating effects of the pandemic. flood in southwest BC
Byron Cruz with the Sanctuary Medical Collective and Immigrant Rights Network says up to 700 migrant workers from Guatemala, Mexico, Jamaica and the Philippines have been displaced as a result of flooding that has hit the province.
He said at least 150 people are in shelters, while others have been evacuated to farms that are not at risk.
Many people have lost everything they had in Canada except their passports, he said.
“The workers had a tough experience,” he said. “They’re losing hope that they’ll go back to the farms.”
But Cruz said most migrants are more worried about the status of their jobs than their possessions.
Most workers who come to Canada, he said, send their wages home and their families are counting on them.
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He said most farm workers in BC have work permits and contracts that link their right to work with a particular business for a specific period of time.
That situation makes it impossible for them to get jobs elsewhere, he said, and most workers in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker program cannot access Employment Insurance.
“The problem with migrant farm workers is that the program has left them vulnerable,” he said.
“They come in with a work permit that is binding on an employer, they don’t have an open work permit, and at the same time they are stuck in a shelter with no access to EI.”
Cruz said his organization, as well as diplomats from countries with migrants, are appealing to the federal government in the hope of providing emergency relief to workers.
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Global News has requested comment from the Departments of Employment and Social Development, Immigration and Citizenship.
Cruz says that although many British Columbians may not see the migrant workers, they play an important role in keeping the province well-supplied.
“Every time we come to (eat at) the table, we have to remember that this is a great effort of the migrant workers, farmers and everyone involved in that farm system,” he said.
“Remember that migrant workers are people who don’t work eight hours a day, they sometimes work 16 hours a day for minimum wage and have no right to overtime pay.”
Meanwhile, Cruz said nonprofits are working to raise money to get prepaid cash cards for workers while workers wait for flooding.
Anyone who wants to contribute can do so through the Migration Rights Network.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8385651/migrant-farm-workers-bc-floods/ Campaigners call for aid to flood-displaced BC immigrant farm workers