Two men have been arrested in Greece after foremen for strawberry growers allegedly shot and wounded 27 migrant labourers who were demanding to be paid, police said on Thursday.
The migrants, mainly from Bangladesh, were hospitalised in the western port of Patras and other areas with gunshot wounds after allegedly being fired upon late on Wednesday by three foremen for the growers in the village of Manolada, one of the main areas of strawberry production in Greece.
One man was arrested as a “moral instigator” of the alleged shootings and another for helping two of the presumed perpetrators to evade arrest, local police said.
The migrants had been working in local farms without being paid for the past six months, the police said. Around 200 of them went to demand their money when they were fired upon.
The government condemned the attack and anti-racist groups were planning a demonstration in the area later in the day.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the attack was “inhuman” and “outside Greek morality” and pledged an immediate response by the authorities.
But the Communist-affiliated PAME union noted that the incident was only the latest in a long history of abuse of migrant workers in Greece.
PAME said the workers had been fired upon with shotguns and pistols. It claimed 33 were hurt, while the police said 27 were wounded, one of them critically.
“Growers and landowners have operated with cover from the government and justice for years, creating a hell-hole with slavery labour conditions,” the union said.
“Modern slaves in Manolada work in stifling conditions, pay rent to their exploiters and are lodged in sheds without water and electricity,” it said.
In 2008, Manolada had been the focal point of a rare strike by hundreds of migrant workers against near-slavery conditions on the fields.
The treatment of migrants in Greece has long been criticised by domestic and international rights groups, to little avail.