A Greek court has sparked an “unprecedented racist scandal” after it cleared farmers who shot and wounded 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers when they asked to be paid.
In a verdict described as “an outrage and a disgrace” and which led to protests outside the court in the southern city of Patras, the owner of the farm and head foreman were cleared of all charges – which included human trafficking.
Manolada strawberry farmers shoot immigrants who demanded 6 months salaries. More than 20 wounded in hospital.
The immigrant workers had reportedly gathered to demand six-months’ worth of unpaid wages when one of three work supervisors whom they were negotiating with shot them. About 20-30 of the 200 strawberry pickers from Bangladesh got injured. Local media reported that four of them are in a serious health condition. The employer has been arrested and investigations are going on.
Only one day later some of the in Patras hospitalised migrants instead of left to go home were arrested for lacking valid residence permits and transferred to detention for deportation.
Several thousand migrant workers (many of them reportedly undocumented) are empoyed as strawberry pickers in the area.
This is not the first time that immigrants in Nea Manolada have protested against harsh working conditions.
In 2008, immigrant farm workers staged a two-day strike (delaying the shipments of strawberries by at least a few days) to protest against harsh working conditions. Their strike exposed slave wage exploitation, shocking living conditions and prejudice.
The government at the time responded to the strike by ordering labour inspectors to crack the whip on farmers exploiting migrant workers in Nea Manolada.
Despite the country’s soaring rate of unemployment, agriculture is heavily reliant on immigrant labour.
In 2009, two farmers in Manolada, alleged to have tied two Bangladeshi immigrants to a motorcycle and reportedly dragged them through a central square.
An immigrant from Senegal died falling from a height, on the rails of the subway in Thiseio station in central Athens, during an operation of Municipal Police to remove peddlers from tourist area.
A big operation of Municipal Police started on Friday afternoon on the touristic area of Thiseio, in central Athens, to remove immigrants from the streets, who work as peddlers to live. During this operation Cheikh Babacar Ndiaye a 37 years old immigrant from Senegal, was chased and he died falling from a height, on the rails of the subway in Thiseio station. From the blood seen on the pictures possibly his death resulted from the fall.
Subway metro services were disrupted for at least two hours. First aid assistants removed the body of the immigrant from the rails. Meanwhile his friends gathered at the station, together with other people from Senegal.
Some of them mourned, but when they saw the stretcher with the dead body they began to shout and protest. Some of them they shouted that Police is racists. Riot police arrived immediately and attacked the gathered people, and cleared the area around the station. At the same moment of the attack the dead body of immigrant was moved to an ambulance and left the area, for an unknown and undeclared direction, in spite of the questions made on this.
The exploitation and violence of agricultural farmers in Manolada against their migrant workers continues. On May 12, 2012 the workers of the strawberry harvest started a strike demanding higher wages now. The police supports the farmers with sweep operations arresting migrants in the area. On May 16, 2012, the third day of the workers strike the protests resulted again in the arrest of about 10 workers – mainly migrants.
On Thursday 15th of March a group of 40 workers from Pakistan and other countries protested against the exploitation they suffer from in the orange harvest. Since two years the workers of Koutroufini Orange production are unpaid and without health insurance.
A citizen of Athens reported today (December 26) in the internet of an incident of police violence in the centre of Athens, when a municipality officer beat up a migrant street vendor.
The citizen reported the sudden appearance of a couple of municipality officers wearing helmets and hiding their faces nearby Syndagma square. Some of them were carrying black plastic bags, others were running. One of them tried with the help of a police officer to arrest a migrant street vendor. The street vendor resisted and suddenly one municipality officer wearing a helmet started punching the vendor in his stomach. On his grey helmet was written “Molon Lave” (a famous phrase from King Leonidas of Sparta, meaning: “come and take them” – a phrase that fascists like to quote). Both citizens who became a witness of the police repression and the vendor were shouting.
Police and municipality police were hunting down migrant street vendors in the centre during all of the day.
HIV infected migrant women should be deported, said Andreas Loverdos the Greek Health Minister in a conference about the public health.
“The infection goes from the illegal migrant women to the Greek client, into the Greek family.”
Mr. Loverdos, Greek Minister of Health
According to Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, drug addiction and illegal prostitution, especially when combined with illegal migration, were the main culprits for the rise in the rate of HIV infection.
From about 620 brothels and “studios” only seven are legal and from around 20.000 brothels workers only 1.200 are registered according to the Minister. As he continued, the Ministry of Health has handed information about the illegal prostitution to the Citizen Protection Ministry for the reasons of protecting the “public health”. His speech ended: “The infected women should leave Greece!”
Around the 8th of September unknown people set fire on a barack where asylum seekers were temporarily living in the transit-port of Patras.
As A., an Eritrean refugee reported:
I have been homeless in Athens. I have been homeless in Patras. I have been homeless in Igoumenitsa. I applied for asylum. Now I am again homeless in Patras. I live on the beach and in ruins. Police is hunting us every day.
A few days ago somebody lit fire on the ruin we were living in. I think it was the racists. Everything burned. All our belongings. My AFM (tax number), my work permit, my clothes. Everything. I am left now only with my Pink Card (asylum seekers temporary residence permit) but what is it worth? What can it do for me? I am still homeless and unprotected.
Transit in Patras
Following a number of police raids in the last months, currently, there are very few sans-papiers and asylum seekers left in Patras. The ones who have remained suffer, as K. from Somalia tells us:
“I only stay here because I don’t have any other place to go! There is no chance to leave from here for Italy. Very very few manage. The new port is very dangerous. Police is hunting and beating us, they even have dogs. My Pink Card got tear up by my former employer who didn’t want to pay me for the work I did. Now it is almost one month that I am only with a copy of my Pink Card. They say, I cannot get a new one if I don’t have an address in Patras, but where should I get it from? Two days ago a police control arrested me. I asked them to go and catch the copy of my Pink Card, but they didn’t let me go. I was in prison for two days. I am understanding more and more about this country. Nothing good to tell!”
Press Release of the Antiracist Group Thessaloniki concerning the police raids of the last weeks in the centre of Thessaloniki
Street vendors from a variety of countries face since years severe repressive measures in the urban centres of Greece, since they have no opportunity to get work permits for their trade. At the same time informal street vending is one of very few ways to economically survive in Greece. The street vendors from Bangladesh denounced the situation at the 11th of April in the municipal council of Thessaloniki. Antiracist Group Thessaloniki – Public Release about Street Vendors (in Greek)
... is like a “paper boat”. We chose this as a metaphor for what we want to create and for the situation of refugees and migrants in Greece. The paper boat is a folded boat able to swim – for a while. Then you have to build a new one to go on travelling. A paper boat is symbolic for the journey of life, vulnerable but in your own hands and to be recreated again and again. It is simple, but it carries many hopes and dreams. It can dance on a turbulent sea. It belongs to everybody. And it might become the small version – like a first draft – of a welcome-space.
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