Why migrant workers are happy with meagre fruits of their labours

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The Independent Online
Their day begins with a wake-up call at 5.55am and by 6am they are out in the fields for the start of a 16-hour day picking strawberries.

The work is back-breaking and poorly-paid, but these Eastern European students are flocking to Herefordshire to work on the fruit farms.

Farmers are finding it more and more difficult to find enough British students prepared to work the long hours to enable them to get their fruit picked and onto the supermarket shelves while it is still fresh.

But over the last five years there has been a large increase in the number of Eastern Europeans who are willing to help out and earn some money towards their studies.

The workers can earn a high of around pounds 200 a week, while pounds 70 is a not uncommon low. Some will be found sharing small touring caravans for around pounds 8 a week.

In 1996 there were 4,500 visas allocated to non-European students and this year the number has increased to 10,000 and they have become an essential part of the seasonal work force.

Photographs: Chris Smart