NEWS

Police seek farm foremen who shot migrants

Parties condemn assault on fruit pickers as one suspect linked to attack last year

Police in the Ilia prefecture of the Peloponnese on Thursday continued their search for the three foremen of a strawberry farm near the village of Nea Manolada who are accused of opening fire on a group of Bangladeshi workers on Wednesday afternoon, injuring 28.

The 57-year-old owner of the farm, who was arrested on Wednesday, remained in detention on Thursday, charged as a moral accomplice to attempted manslaughter. Meanwhile police said they had arrested a 38-year-old man accused of hiding two of the foremen at his home on charges of harboring criminals. The foremen are three Greek men, aged 39, 27 and 21, according to police. A spokesman for the force said one of the three suspects is awaiting trial for the assault in Nea Manolada last summer of an Egyptian man who had his head jammed into the window of a car door and was dragged along the road.

Seven of the migrants remained hospitalized on Thursday, most for treatment to wounds from lead shot. One of the migrants was in a serious but not critical condition, doctors said.

Many of the other victims returned to the scene of Wednesday’s shooting, saying they had nowhere else to go. One migrant said the foremen started shooting at the workers following an argument about unpaid wages. “They said they wouldn’t pay us. Two started firing guns at us and the other was firing in the air. I thought I was going to die,” Mahmut Mia told Kathimerini.

Although the migrants do not have residence papers, it appears that authorities are not planning immediate action to deport them. The police rebuffed claims by the main leftist opposition SYRIZA party on Thursday that the migrants would be deported. Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias is to visit Nea Manolada on Friday, as are teams of inspectors from the Labor Ministry. In a statement on Thursday

Dendias described the shooting as “attempted murder” and condemned the “economic exploitation” of thousands of migrants.

The incident was condemned by all political parties. Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou described it as “an unprecented and shameful act which is foreign to the morals of the Greek people.” SYRIZA referred to a “barbaric, racist attack.” Even the extreme-right Golden Dawn condemned the shooting, though it also slammed farm owners for employing migrants instead of Greeks.

Up to 7,000 migrants work the strawberry fields in Nea Manolada alone. Greece’s strawberry exports have skyrocketed in recent years, according to the Panhellenic Exporters’ Association. From 4,044 tons in 2007, exports jumped to 26,111 tons in 2012.

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