Inside the Plastic Sea is El Barranquete shantytown, where houses
are constructed from dumped rubbish

Hassan’s house, like all the others in El Barranquete, is constructed from whatever he could find
on rubbish dumps or the side of the road; pieces of plastic foraged from the greenhouses, flaps of
cardboard and old hosing tied around lumps of wood. Under Spain’s blazing sun, the temperature
can reach 50C – at night the plastic sheeting releases toxic carcinogenic fumes while he sleeps.
When he first arrived in Spain, Hassan was stunned by how the workers were treated on the
farms. Like other workers in El Barranquete, Hassan says he earns only about €5 (£4.50) an hour,
well under the legal minimum wage. “The working conditions are terrible,” he says. “Sometimes
we work from sunup to sundown in extreme heat, with only a 30-minute break in the whole day.”
Now, as Almería faces a wave of Covid-19 infections, workers say they have been left completely
unprotected. “We pick your food,” says Hassan. “But our health doesn’t matter to anyone.”

Top: One of the few water sources in Don Domingo shantytown.
Bottom left: a worker collects water in Don Domingo. Right: workers
at El Nazareno settlement use toxic containers to store drinking
water

In August, the Observer interviewed more than 45 migrants employed as farm workers in
Almería. A joint supply chain investigation by Ethical Consumer magazine has linked many of
these workers to the supply chains of UK supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl
and Aldi.
All claimed to be facing systemic labour exploitation before and throughout the pandemic such as
non-payment of wages and being kept on illegal temporary contracts. Many described being

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