Migrant fruit pickers win European court case against Greece

AP News
|
Posted: Mar 30, 2017 7:17 AM

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A group of strawberry pickers from Bangladesh has won a case against Greece at Europe's highest human rights court, after being shot at by employers for demanding unpaid wages.

The Council of Europe's Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday in favor of 42 Bangladeshi nationals, and ordered the Greek state to pay them damages of 12,000-16,000 euros ($13,000-$17,000) each for having "failed in its obligations to prevent the situation of human trafficking, to protect the victims."

The 2013 incident occurred near the southern Greek town of Manolada, 260 kilometers (160 miles) west of Athens, when more than 20 migrant strawberry pickers were shot and wounded by foremen wielding shotguns after demanding delayed pay.

The European case was launched after a Greek court convicted two of the shooting suspects but they were released pending their appeal.

Morsed Chowdury, the lead applicant in the European case, and the human rights watchdog Amnesty International welcomed the decision taken by the court in Strasbourg, France.

"We are very pleased and excited by today's judgment. The Greek court's acquittal of the farmers for the crime of forced labor was a great disappointment to us," Chowdury said.

"We hope that the Greek government will learn from our experiences and recognize our important role in the Greek economy."

The shootings were widely publicized, highlighting the frequent mistreatment of migrant workers in Greek farming jobs.

"Today's judgment is an important vindication for them and their families and will hopefully help prevent future abuse," Amnesty International's Gauri van Gulik told the AP.

"Amnesty has met and interviewed the migrant workers about their exploitation in 2013 just after the incident and saw for ourselves their living conditions."

___

Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

___

Follow Gatopoulos at http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos and Charlton at http://twitter.com/acharlton