MPs on Tuesday gave authorities a month to help farmers address a shortage in labour created in part by foreign workers taking up undeclared work elsewhere or applying for political asylum.
House agriculture committee president Akel MP Yiannakis Gavriel said farmers were paying the price of a breakdown in communication between four ministries – justice, agriculture, labour and interior.
“It is clear from the discussion that the four ministries and the police do not communicate among themselves,” he said
“We, as the committee, have asked the four ministries to come back in a month to tell us what they have decided collectively, because it emerged from the discussion that there is no consultation,” he said.
He also asked for increased checks on illegal workers and illegal employers. “If a worker leaves a job in agriculture it means that they are working somewhere else undeclared, and this is where police and the justice ministry must act to resolve these problems,” the Famagusta MP added.
Gavriel said there were two categories of third country workers who come to Cyprus to work in agriculture but then leave their jobs. The first – those who apply for political asylum – number about 680, according to police. There are no figures on the second group – those who choose to change jobs.
Disy’s Charalambos Pazaros said a large number of foreign workers are brought to Cyprus by farmers but then abandon them, either asking for political asylum or becoming freelancers and leaving farmers in despair.
“This is exploitation of Cyprus’ agricultural sector and of our country,” he said noting that farmers spend considerable sums to bring the workers, but are suddenly left without labour, with their harvest at risk.
Authorities should come up with solutions to restore what he termed the ‘smooth operation’ of the sector. Moreover, the House should enact legislation to protect employers and set out the employment conditions, status and obligations or foreign agricultural workers.
Elam’s Linos Papayiannis said the phenomenon posed a huge problem for farmers, with the government failing to take corrective action.