Strawberry Fields in Greece: Exploitation and Racism

At least 28 strawberry field workers from Bangladesh were transferred to hospital with injuries on 17 May after being shot by the “foremen” of their employer. The incident occurred at 6 p.m. on the 41st kilometer of the highway between Patras and Pyrgos in Peloponnese.

A large group of immigrant workers – mainly Bangladesh originated – went to meet the foremen of their Greek employer demanding their six months unpaid wages. The three “foremen” took up rifles and started blindly shooting at them. The workers started to run in panic, while they were being shot on their backs and other parts of their bodies. Manolada has been in the center of such controversies before. In 2008, two journalists from the daily newspaper Eleftherotypia Dina Daskalopoulou who investigated along with Makis Nodaros strawberry fields’ workers’ labour and living conditions received threats and menacing calls before and after their story was published.
In the past recent years there have been several attacks on migrant strawberry workers but this one can be considered as the worst so far. Owners of large strawberry production fields in Manolada Ilias have enjoyed impunity and a shocking tolerance from the authorities who have done nothing to stop this despite the 150 plus cases filed against them. In most of the strawberry production properties immigrant workers fill most of the criteria that can classify them as trafficking victims.
The hundreds of Asian immigrants working in strawberry production of Peloponnese, housed in primitive conditions, are even forced to pay rent to their bosses. Although the Greek authorities have promised in the aftermath of the attacks that none of these workers – most of them without green cards – will be deported, those people still remain under threat as long as this circle of exploitation of migrant labour in Greece exists. Even if they receive all the legal papers, they will still live under the threat of racist attacks stimulated by Golden Dawn and other racist groups.
As an ironic coincidence the event in Manolada occurred one day after the publication of Commissioner of the Council of Europe Nils Muižniek’s Human Rights report. Among others the report stated that an increase in racist and other hate crimes had been observed in Greece lately. Those crimes “primarily target migrants and pose a serious threat to the rule of law and democracy”, the report said.
The shots in Manolada Ilias strawberry fields remember again of the migrant working conditions in Greece. In many agricultural areas all over Greece the production is depended on the extremely low paid and uninsured work of immigrants. This situation has favoured the existence of a whole range of exploitation nets and even trafficking. Apparently, the legitimizing basis of the extreme exploitation of migrant labour is racism. Social crisis provoked by severe austerity measures and social conservatism promoted by authoritarian policies contributed to the emerge of a new type of biopolitics: immigrants, sexworkers, transgender people, drug addicts and homeless are actually being denied their proper humanity. Concentration camps all over Greece where hundreds of immigrants are gathered, are the other side of the coin. The Greek authorities traced and arrested most of them – more than 90.000 people – with basic criteria of their skin colour.
Manolada, other Special zones of financial activities and of course concentration camps consist an exception regime and a place beyond law. Immigrants and other “non-important” are now being used by authorities for the application of policies that until some time ago where considered as “unthinkable”. Right after the first shock towards brutality a new type of social addiction is slowly being produced. The “unthinkable” becomes an everyday possibility and a new question comes up: “Who is coming next?”

On the right at Media files you find a video of the incident in Manolada, produced by the Immigration Department of "Youth of Synaspismos".