Twenty-eight migrant workers were gunned down in Greece on Wednesday after demanding back pay owed to them on a farm they had worked on for several months.
Up to 28 out of a total of 200 mostly Bangladeshi immigrant workers who came under fire were hospitalized following the incident, although no one was killed. Seven of the workers remained hospitalized on Thursday.
Three Greek nationals, said to be the workers' supervisors, were involved in the shooting, which took place on a strawberry farm in Nea Manolada, though many details of the case are still unclear.
"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."
The three shooters are still at large. However, the owner of the strawberry farm where the shooting occurred was arrested on Thursday as the "moral instigator" of the shootings. Another was arrested for sheltering two of the three presumed perpetrators overnight, police said.
"They keep telling us that we will get paid in a month, and this has been going on for more than a year," one of the workers involved in the protests told Greek Skai. "We don't talk about it because we are afraid that we will be killed or kicked out."
Manolada has become known as an area prone to violence against migrant workers, The Greek Reporter reports:
Last year, two Greek men were arrested for beating a 30-year-old Egyptian, jamming his head in the window of a car door and dragging him for around one kilometer.
In 2008, migrants working on farms in New Manolada, known for its strawberries, went on a four-day strike to protest poverty wages and squalid living conditions. Several activists have called on consumers at home and abroad to boycott Manolada strawberries. A social media campaign was launched on Twitter under #bloodstrawberries.
According to Associated Press, political parties and trade unions expressed shock across Greece and about 100 people took part in a protest by labor groups outside the Labor Ministry in Athens.
"The injuries suffered by protesting farm workers in Manolada are being condemned in the most absolute manner by the entirety of Greek society,” government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said in a statement.
The national PAME union stated that the incident was only the latest in a long history of abuse of migrant workers in Greece:
Growers and landowners have operated with cover from the government and justice for years, creating a hell-hole with slavery labor conditions
Modern slaves in Manolada work in stifling conditions, pay rent to their exploiters and are lodged in sheds without water and electricity.
The country's main labor union, GSEE, also described conditions at Manolada as a modern form of slavery:
The criminal act in Manolada ... shows the tragic results of labor exploitation, combined with a lack of control [by the government labor inspectorate]
In Manolada, and particularly in the strawberry plantations, a sort of state within a state has been created.