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Albanian Field Hands Can Work in Greece When Lockdown Ends

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(Photo by Eurokinissi,file)

Agricultural workers who come to Greece in the spring will be allowed back after a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus ends under an deal worked out between the countries.

The borders have been closed during the shutdown but Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said he and Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis are working on opening it for the workers, reported Kathimerini.

Rama said he talked with Mitsotakis, about fighting the virus, reviving the economy and “specifically the mutual interest in helping the interaction about seasonal employment,” as Greek farmers annually need 50,000 fruit and vegetable pickers in May

They come from Albania as well as Bulgaria and Romania and the plan foresees allowing them into Greece by mid-May unless there’s a resurgence of the virus that has been held down in Greece by an early lockdown that closed non-essential businesses.

“We agreed to look carefully together at the issue of the movement of seasonal workers, from Albania to Greece, in line with the mutual need to open the way to their inclusion in the season’s work around the middle of May,” Rama said on Facebook.

Rama added he had thanked Mitsotakis for not acting against Albanian seasonal workers stuck in Greece because of the border shutdown, noting there are some 500,000 Albanians living in Greece.

Media reports said Greece’s Agriculture Ministry was worried the closed border would cut off seasonal workers from Albania, ruin farmers’ produce and make the economy take a bigger hit amid fears that tourism, Greece’s biggest revenue bringer, could be devastated.

The conditions said to allow the workers would involve meeting post-COVID-19 hygiene standards and test or quarantine them before being allowed to work fields. The money Albanians in Greece send back home is crucial to their country’s economy.