Five Greeks and two Romanian nationals were arrested on Monday after two farm workers from the eastern European country escaped slave-like conditions in western Greece and sought help at the Romanian Embassy in Athens, which in turn alerted the police.
The seven men arrested during a subsequent raid on the mushroom farm in Mesolongi where the two laborers claimed to have worked are facing charges of human trafficking. They are accused of bringing to Greece some 60 laborers from Romania on the promise of a decent wage and housing, and putting them to work illegally at the farm.
The laborers told investigators that they were forced to live in squalid conditions in an abandoned warehouse, working as much as 12 hours a day, often without pay. The workers said they were occasionally given 5 euros, but were also forced to pay rent of 150 euros per month each for a small cubicle made from plywood partitions.
One of the suspects arrested is 53-year-old local farmer who is believed to run the racket by arranging with other farmers in the area to employ the workers. It is believed the farm hands were brought to Greece by the other four suspects, with the Romanians acting as recruiters. A search of the 53-year-old’s home uncovered 11,000 euros in cash.
Greek farms have often come under fire for employing laborers illegally and making them work in unacceptable conditions. The most recent case was that of Bangladeshi strawberry pickers in the Peloponnese who were shot at in April by a farm’s foremen for demanding the wages they were owed.