A Greek Court Is Fining Migrants Who Were Shot at By Their Boss
Manolada's Bangladeshi migrant workers are demanding for the fines to be erased.
This article originally appeared on VICE Greece
On the 17th of April 2013, nearly 200 Bangladeshi immigrants working in the strawberry production fields of the Peloponese town of Manolada, in Greece, demanded to be paid the six months outstanding wages that they were owed. In response, their supervisors opened fire on them, injuring 28 people.
The controversies surrounding the Manolada case and it's judicial proceedings seem to keep unfolding. The Bangladeshi migrant workers have not only been denied any sort of witness protection or financial compensation, they are now expected to pay the cost of the case.
The court recently ruled their employer – strawberry trader Nikos Vaggelatos – as well as one of the accused gunmen, Kostas Chaloulos, not guilty. Two of the other supervisors were, however, charged. One for grievous bodily harm and the other for aiding by omission.
During the trial, the legal team defending the workers asked for the president of the Mixed Jury Court of Patras, to be removed from her position. They said the judge's attitude seemed biased towards the accused throughout the proceedings. Eventually, the judicial council rejected the request and, given that they considered it unfounded, ruled that the migrants should pay the costs incurred.
These costs amounted to almost €360 (£260) per person for each of the 35 migrants: €12,000 (£8,800) in total. Petrol Konstantinou, the coordinator of KEERFA (United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat) said to VICE:
"During the trial, lawyer Moses Karampidis made a request for an 'exemption of seat'. Actually, he asked for the judge to be completely replaced by another person, because he perceived her behaviour as completely scandalous."
"We see these fines as racist and we demand for them to be erased," he continued.
Watch: Life as an Illegal Immigrant in Greece
Immigrants have already staged a protest at the Ministry of Finance where they were welcomed by the Director of the Office of the Deputy Minister of Finance, Kostas Papadigenopoulos. The workers submitted their request for the annulment of these fines. Ari Achman, who represents the immigrants, told us: "These guys were shot at and they haven't even received the wages they're owed. Now, they have to pay fines. Mr.Papadigenopoulos told us that the Ministry would help with the cancellation of the fines. He also said that it was a shame that the fines were ever issued."
The majority of the workers have left Manolada. Some are abroad, some others are searching for work elsewhere in Greece, but according to them, the situation in Manolada is chasing them:
"When employers see that these guys have been working in Manolada, they are afraid to hire them," Arif told us.
Liton, one of the Manolada workers, currently lives in Athens where he's looking for a job. He doesn't have money to pay the judicial costs.
"Do you know how long I've been out of work? Things are really hard. They haven't given us the money they owe us. I can't find a job. I had one for a while but I got fired because the employers saw me on the news."
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