Road deaths “lift just the tip of the veil” hiding human misery in Odemira’s red berry industry

National media made passing reference this week to the road traffic accident deaths of two Nepalese immigrants following a police chase in São Teotónio.

Just the bare details of the story came out. A van carrying four Nepalese, in the early hours of the morning, passed a GNR patrol which realised that it was missing a rear light.

Agents radioed ahead to another patrol on the road advising colleagues to stop the van when it passed.

This it attempted to do, but the driver “disrespected the signal to stop” and instead accelerated “at great speed”.

Police gave chase, and according to reports, “minutes later the patrol discovered the vehicle had come off the road at kilometre 113 of the EN120”.

The van “hit a tree”, wrote Correio da Manhã, and two men died after being projected through the windscreen onto the ground.

Two others were injured, one so seriously he had to be transported in a critical condition by helicopter to Lisbon’s S. José hospital.

In essence, the accident came about because of a faulty back light – and it is this that has seen locals rail against the iniquity of human exploitation in the borough of Odemira – to which they claim authorities have turned a blind eye.

Last year, Expresso carried an exposé on the “invisible people” working for American multinationals in “miserable conditions”.

“Some eat and sleep beside their work places. Others, in over-stuffed hostels with ‘zero stars’, in decrepit dwellings, improvised residences, outdoor camps, containers. Throughout the margins of São Teotónio parish, their presence is evident at the same time as they are invisible. The greenhouse beings. They don’t even appear in census data…”

Thus, the two dead workers of this week have been remembered on social media by people who understand their context.

“They came from far away”, writes rural tourism business Quinta Pero Vicente. “Hired by miserable employment agencies to work in the greenhouses. Victims of poverty and globalisation.

“To commemorate them, we don’t put images of the Himalayas, of the summit of Annapurna, we publish a journalistic report that just lifts the veil over intensive agriculture in the borough of Odemira, spreading towards Aljezur”.

Expresso’s article refers to the fact that Odemira’s true population is “more than double” that officially registered.

“You don’t need x-ray vision to see there are immigrants living and working in the region in very precarious conditions, moving from A to B in a clandestine way”.

As Quinta Pero Vicente laments: “As a result of a GNR operation (and we should talk about the attitude of this entity in our region) at least two Nepalese immigrants have died”.