People & Power

Italy’s Sikh Slaves

We investigate the exploitation of Sikh agricultural workers in Italy by organised crime amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The vast agricultural plains of the Agro-Pontino in central Italy is now one of the country’s main areas of food production.

Yet it was not always the case.

This 100 mile-long stretch of land facing the Tyrrhenian Sea was marshland until a century ago when fascist dictator Benito Mussolini organised a mass migration from northern Italy to drain the swamps and turn them into fertile farmland.

But many of those who live today are not Italian, they are Indian – at least 11,000 of them, and possibly up to four times more.

Mostly Sikhs from Punjab in northern India, they are economic migrants who have come here to work in local farms and send money home to give their families a better life.

Some manage to do just that. But for many others, their dreams are crushed.

Instead, they face abuse and exploitation from both profit-driven agri-businesses and organised crime – labouring for pitiful wages, often without official documentation, and trapped in a system from which there is no escape.

Filmmakers Alessandro Righi and Emanuele Piano went to investigate for People & Power.