Germany relaxes restrictions on seasonal workers

File photo. Romanian seasonal workers pick strawberries at the fruit farm of Frank Mertens in Willich, Germany, 24 April 2014. [Roland Weinrauch/EPA/EFE]

The German government on Wednesday (11 June) eased entry restrictions for seasonal farm workers that were first introduced to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

From 16 June until 31 December, seasonal workers from the European Union and the passport-free Schengen zone will once again be allowed to freely enter Germany by land or air to help harvest crops, Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner announced.

“Until the end of the year, farmers can employ additional seasonal workers from abroad,” Kloeckner said, warning however that they would have to follow strict hygiene rules.

“This is the only way to work responsibly in times of a pandemic. It’s in all our interests that farmers can keep harvesting and sowing.”

German farms usually require some 300,000 foreign harvest helpers a year, mainly from Poland and Romania.

But at the height of the coronavirus crisis in March the government closed borders and capped the number of seasonal workers allowed to enter the country at 80,000.

Germany to relax coronavirus border controls for farm workers

Germany will allow foreign workers into the country to help harvest fruit and vegetable crops on farms, the government said on Thursday (2 April), relaxing previous travel restrictions imposed to combat the new coronavirus.

Farmers even chartered special flights to fly in Romanian workers amid fears that strawberry and asparagus harvests could go to waste because of a shortage of labour.

By early June just under 39,000 seasonal workers had travelled to Germany, according to the agriculture ministry.

Under the new guidelines, which come as Germany’s coronavirus outbreak is deemed to be under control, harvest workers have to keep at least 1.5 metres distance from each other and work in small teams.

If anyone falls ill with COVID-19, their team is to be isolated immediately and employers must notify the local health authorities.

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