Published: Friday, April 19, 2013

Bangladeshis at Greece Farm

32 shot as they asked for salary

Bangladeshi worker Mohamed is helped by colleagues into a tent in the southwestern Greek town of Manolada yesterday, following the shooting incident on Wednesday evening that left dozens of Bangladeshis at a strawberry farm injured. Photo: Reuters

Bangladeshi worker Mohamed is helped by colleagues into a tent in the southwestern Greek town of Manolada yesterday, following the shooting incident on Wednesday evening that left dozens of Bangladeshis at a strawberry farm injured. Photo: Reuters

At least 32 Bangladeshi workers have been shot and injured on a strawberry farm in Greece after they demanded their arrears.
Having survived without any payment for the last six months, some 150 Bangladeshi employees of the firm, Vagela Kos, went on a strike on Wednesday, BM Jamal Hossain, counsellor of the Bangladeshi embassy in Greece, told The Daily Star by phone.
The farm owner, Nicolas Vagela Kos, threatened that he would not pay the arrears if the demonstrators did not go back to work. But the agitating Bangladeshis refused to do so until their arrears were paid, Jamal said.
Then two staff of the farm opened fire on the workers, leaving 32 wounded, he added.
On information, Greek police rushed to the spot and arrested the owner of the farm in Nea Manolada — about 260km west of Athens and an area where thousands of migrant workers are employed — and one foreman.
Seven of the injured were hospitalised while 25 others received first aid. The embassy official last night said those who had been admitted to hospital were out of danger.
Police meanwhile filed a case against four people, including the arrestees, in connection with the incident, the counsellor said.
Around 20,000 Bangladeshi migrants in the country panicked immediately after the shooting, but normalcy returned, he mentioned.
Initially, the Greek government arranged for treatment of the wounded, but it was not known immediately whether the workers would be given compensations.
The Bangladesh embassy will have talks with the local administration on Friday to discuss the future of the workers.
The embassy official, however, said the embassy would try to send the workers back to work. If it fails, it will try to arrange new jobs for the workers.
Last night, Greek officials promised “swift and exemplary” punishment for three foremen who were suspected of shooting and wounding the workers.
“Before the shootings, there was an altercation between the foreign workers and the three foremen over six months’ outstanding wages,” police spokesman Christos Parthenis said.
“After that, the three fugitives left the spot, and returned shortly later holding two shotguns and a handgun, and opened fire on the crowd.”
Police found five used shotgun cartridges at the spot, AP reports.
Greece is caught in its worst financial crisis in decades, and is surviving on international rescue loans granted in exchange for harsh austerity measures. It is in the sixth year of a deep recession, with unemployment at a record 27 percent and workers facing delayed payments.
According to BBC, Nea Manolada has previously been in the spotlight over exploitation of migrants.
In 2008, workers staged a protest against inhumane conditions. There have also been reports of previous attacks.
A social media campaign has now been launched to boycott fruits from Nea Manolada, calling them “blood strawberries”.
The Council of Europe — the main European rights watchdog — issued a report this week, detailing abuse of migrants in Greece.
The report warned of a growing wave of racist violence, stating that “democracy is at risk”.