12,000 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers work risking lives in Greece

Prothom Alo English Desk | Update:

Migrant workers of Bangladesh. File Photo. A representational image.As many as 12,000 undocumented Bangladeshi migrants have been working in strawberry farms in Greece risking their lives, says The Conversation, an Australia-based nonprofit media outlet.

“Although they consider Greece a transit stop to other European countries, most ends up staying for years. The migrant farmworkers say the farmers reap rich profits but are so far unwilling to provide decent housing for them. Nor can the seasonal workers find local accommodation,” reads an article published on 11 October on the media outlet written by Reena Kukreja, assistant professor, Global Development Studies, Queen’s University in Ontario.

The assistant professor also wrote, “The conditions of work can be described as forced labour.”

“The workers are forced to rent unused farmland and build highly inflammable makeshift shacks called barangas. Baranga is a Bangladeshi colloquial term derived from a Greek word, paranga, which translates as “a shack.” Workers construct the barangas out of salvaged plastic sheets, cardboard and reeds,” the article added.

However, it added, Greece is the 10th biggest exporter of strawberries in the world.

Migrant workers form the backbone of the labour-intensive strawberry farming.

Prothom Alo illustrationQuoting a young migrant working in his early 20s, the media outlet on 11 October said, “Look how they live in comfort – all due to our hard work. What do we get in return? Discarded plastic sheets as our roof.”

“Sweating our blood in the field, we earn huge profits for farmers who treat us worse than animals. We want people to learn how we live a rough life in barangas,” it added quoting a statement of 25 Bangladeshi farm workers in Nea Manolada.

Referring to a grueling event in 2013, it also said, protests by Bangladeshi workers against delayed wages led to Greek farmers shooting at them. The workers clinched landmark human rights case and Greece government had to pay more than US $648,000 to 42 of them.

The shabby housing also risked them frequent fire and workers often ‘lose everything’.

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