The European Court of Human Rights vindicated the victims and awarded damages of thousands of euros for migrants who were employed in strawberry crops in Manolada under appalling living and working conditions.
Judging the appeal of 42 laborers from Bangladesh, the ECHR held that they were victims of forced labor. The court also found that the Greek State failed to protect the victims, did not investigate their case in depth and did not punish the perpetrators.
According to the decision, the Greek State is required to pay to each of the 42 applicants who appealed to the European Court a compensation of 16,000 euros.
The court said that the 42 Bangladeshis worked from October 2012 until February 2013 in the strawberry crops in Manolada, Peloponnese. Their employers had promised them daily wages of 22 euros for seven hours of work and an additional 3 euros for overtime.
In practice the laborers worked a total of 12 hours each day under the supervision of armed guards. Furthermore, according to the court, the employers had warned them that they wouldn’t get paid if they stopped working.
The migrants were living in nylon tents on the side of the crops, using holes in the ground as a toilet. The water supply was in the form of a tube connected to the nearby gas station. Most farm workers employed there had legal residence permits, while others had sought political asylum.
On April 17, 2013, after the workers had been unpaid for months, they claimed their accrued wages. They gathered to protest to the owner of the crops but they were faced with three armed superintendents who started shooting at them. Dozens of the migrants were injured.
The news of the shootings spread and many sellers cancelled their strawberry orders. Importers from Russia sent mails to the farm owner condemning the attack.
However, a year later a Patras Mixed Jury Court found the strawberry producer and the three caretakers not guilty of human trafficking charges.
The decision was unanimous and did not allow for an appeal. Advocates of the migrants and the Greek Council for Refugees appealed to the ECHR requesting vindication.
To the 35 laborers who had been injured by the caretakers’ shots, the Greek State gave them residence permits on humanitarian grounds.