On 4 April 2020 the Turkish Interior Ministry issued a directive due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the aim of improving the conditions of seasonal agricultural workers. The directive addressed the basic needs of workers such as health, shelter, accommodation and clean water.
The working conditions of agricultural workers who come from the Viranşehir (Wêranşar) district of Urfa (Riha) to the Yazıhan district of Malatya (Meleti) to work in the sugar beet fields, however, are in complete violation of the ministry directive.
One example of this is the 20 members of the Derintaş family, who are accommodated in tents with no water or electricity. Family member Ferit Derintaş said he had to travel 5 km to get water for the family after working all day in the sun.
“There were no jobs where we live, so we were forced to come here to work and bring the whole family” he says. He explains their daily routine:
“We come to the sugarbeet field early in the morning. We do the weeding. The pay is very low but we have to come here. We have been coming for three years now. There is no electricity here, and there’s no water either. They put the water in tankers and bring it. By the time it gets here, the water is heating up. There is no firewood here. We look for firewood every day. There is no shade where we can eat.”
It is still harder if you are a woman. Sayike Derintaş stated that women have to work both in the fields and at their accommodation, and that they have to keep working in spite of health problems.
“Fire, electricity and water are essential. We only come here because we have to. My children are small and have no father. We have to bring them with us.” There are older children who have no work, they are unemployed in Viranşehir.