Over five thousand illegal workers in Sunraysia
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The Victorian Farmers Federation has released its Horticultural Labor Case Study - focusing on Sunraysia.
Starling figures reveal there are 5,283 illegal workers without a work visa in Sunraysia currently.
71 per cent of the horticulturalists surveyed by the VFF earlier this year believed they had undocumented workers on their property.
Furthermore, undocumented workers may account for up to 28 per cent of the total workforce in the region.
These figures highlight the extent of labour challenges in the horticulture industry - particularly due to dodgy labour hire operators exploiting pickers.
Mildura MP Ali Cupper spoke to The Project on Thursday night, saying "if you're exploiting highly vulnerable people, and they are earning next-to-nothing, then that's slavery; that's what slavery is, that's modern-day slavery."
A man trafficked to Mildura from Fiji in 1988 told a parliamentary inquiry in 2017 "I see many vulnerable workers coming to Australia from all over the world, seeking a better opportunity.
"Farming is still hard work, and there are still people like my cousin exploiting others for their own profit.
"People in these situations face so many obstacles to reaching out for help," he said.
VFF Vice President Emma Germano says "60 percent of business operators [in Sunraysia] indicated their intent to grow their business over the next five years, which will compound the labour shortfall if left unresolved.
"The VFF has held up its end of the bargain and helped the government understand the extent of the issue.
"It is now up to them to provide industry with an agricultural visa and a meaningful solution to undocumented workers," she said.