Greece launches manhunt after 200 immigrant farmworkers are shot at and wounded for demanding back pay

The 200 strawberry-pickers, many of them from Bangladesh, had been working on the Greek farm for six months without pay. So they went to see the boss. But instead of leaving with their money, they were shot

Athens

The increasing severity of racist attacks in Greece is under renewed scrutiny after immigrant farmworkers in the west of the country were shot and wounded for demanding their back pay.

A manhunt was underway in Western Peloponnese for three men wanted in connection with the shooting of 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers who had protested over unpaid wages. The three foremen have been accused of opening fire on the unarmed immigrant workers after they refused to return to work.

The Greek police are investigating a racist motive for the attack which took place in Manoladas Ilias, a town notorious for attacks on immigrants. Among the suspects is a man who was accused in 2010 of torturing an Egyptian man by trapping his head in a car window and dragging him alongside the vehicle.

The shooting has prompted a local campaign to boycott “blood strawberries” with Greek social media flooded with pictures of bloodstained fruit. Graphic images of the wounded and terrified pickers have prompted shock and outrage in a country where anti-immigrant attacks have become wearily familiar.

Dimitris Christopoulos, an expert in immigration law and associate professor at Panteion University in Athens, said the attack while “horrifying” was the result of years of impunity for similar offences.

“Manoladas has been synonymous with racist violence but there has been no punishment so they feel free to keep doing it,” he said.

He compared the harsh exploitation of labour and wanton violence against immigrant workers to Quentin Tarantino’s bloodthirsty film on US slavery, ‘Django Unchained’.

According to the police and witnesses some 200 farmworkers gathered at a farm in Manoladas Ilias on Wednesday afternoon after being promised wages owed to them for the last six months. Instead the owner appeared with three foremen armed with shotguns and a pistol who told the fruit pickers to get back to work. They refused and an argument ensued during which at least one of the three foremen opened fire with a shotgun.

“We are two hundred people and together we’re owed Euros150,000,” one of the Bangladeshi workers told the local Patris newspaper. “They didn’t give us any money but told us to get back to work. When we refused three of them started firing at us.”

Of the 28 men injured, 18 were taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Pyrgos, while the other nine were transferred for treatment to the port city of Patras. While at least seven of the men were seriously injured none were in a critical condition, according to a police spokesman.

Police have arrested two men in connection with the shooting. One of them is the 57 year old owner of the strawberry fields and another a 38 year old man from a nearby town who is accused of sheltering the fugitive foremen involved in the shooting. Neither of the men have been named. The Greek government condemned what it said was an “inhuman, unprecedented and shameful” attack and promised to swiftly punish the perpetrators.

However, several of the victims of the shooting were themselves arrested after being released from a hospital in the port city of Patras. Six of the men who were only lightly injured were allowed to leave the hospital but they were stopped by police at the exit. Only three of the six had permits allowing them to live and work in Greece, the others were detained and can expect to be deported. Officials have denied claims that witnesses to the crime were being deported and insisted that all of those involved will give a full statement.

The economic crisis in Greece has been exploited by neo-Nazi outfit Golden Dawn, which has gone from a fringe group with a handful of supporters to the third most popular party in the country, according to recent opinion polls. Golden Dawn supporters have been linked with dozens of violent assaults on foreigners and have recently launched raids on public hospitals in search of undocumented immigrants working as nurses.

In January, Amnesty International reported a “dramatic escalation of racially motivated attacks over the past year”, blaming the increasing radicalisation of right wing groups in the country.

Greece is in its sixth year of a recession which has wiped out one-fifth of the economy and left more than a quarter of the workforce unemployed – the highest rate in Europe. However, the Manoladas shooting is similar to other attacks that took place prior to the economic collapse in 2008.

“This is not about the recession. It’s about racist violence and the horrendous exploitation of workers,” said Prof. Christopoulos.

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations should be regarded as an offensive act
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
people
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Supply teaching - A great w...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices