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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Arrests after Bangladeshi farm labourers are shot in Greece

Twenty seven migrant labourers, mostly Bangladeshis, have been injured in Greece after a protest demanding overdue pay was shot on by the workers' foremen, reports say.

The strawberry pickers were employed at a farm in the village of Manolada in south eastern Greece and had allegedly not been paid for the past six months.

When a group of workers had approached their 57-year-old landowner over the unpaid wages later on Wednesday, foremen had opened fire.

The landowner and two other men have now been arrested.

The government condemned the attack and anti-racist groups staged a demonstration in the area on Thursday.

A government official said the attack was "inhuman" and "outside Greek morality" and pledged an immediate response by the authorities.

However, 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, piled upon each other," it said.

Natassa Panagiotara, head of the labour centre in the neighbouring town of Amaliada, spoke of "19th century-style plantations" operating in this manner for over a decade.

"The Greek state knows what is going on ... but there are only two labour inspectors in the area," she told Skai radio.

A local labourer who also spoke to the station said workers had been promised 22 euros ($29) for seven-hour shifts.

He said workers "bathed in a barrel and drank from a water hose" and were afraid of "being killed or having their hut set on fire" if they pressed their claims for pay.

Calls for a boycott on Manolada strawberries rapidly spread online, but Panagiotara warned against indiscriminate action.

"There are family growers in the area who run their own farms without migrant labour and are just as hungry as other Greeks," she said.

In 2008, Manolada was the focal point of a rare strike by hundreds of migrant workers against near-slavery conditions in the fields.

The treatment of migrants in Greece has long been criticized by domestic and international rights groups, to little avail.

- Agencies

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