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Bangladeshi worker Mohamed is helped by colleagues into a tent in the southwestern Greek town of Manolada on Apr. 17, 2013.

The group of migrant workers were shot at in 2013 and threatened with deportation after they demanded payment from Greek landowners.

A group of migrant fruit pickers from Bangladesh have won a human rights case against Greece for being shot at by their employers after demanding wages for unpaid labor. The European court of Human Rights ordered Greece to pay the group of 42 migrants workers damages of US$17,000 each for failing to prevent the human rights abuses from 2013.

The temporary workers were shot at by farmers at a property near the southern Greek town of Manolada, around 160 miles west of Athens. The foremen on the farm were carrying shotguns and more than 20 workers were shot and wounded in the attack.

While two farmers were jailed over the attack, they were then acquitted by a Greek court. The case was seen as a grave injustice and illustrative of the terrible treatment migrant farm workers receive in the country. The Bangladeshis then took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that their slave-like conditions violated Greece’s obligations to the EU to prevent forced labor and human trafficking.

For months, workers were denied payments and threatened by farmers with deportation. The European court ruled that while the migrant workers had taken up their employment on the farm, the relationship then became one of slave labor, in which Greece had “failed in its obligations to prevent the situation of human trafficking.”

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Greece has three months to request a review of the verdict, but Alexis Tsipras’ government is not expected to mount a challenge.

“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,” lead applicant in the case, Morsed Chowdury said.

We hope that the Greek government will learn from our experiences and recognize our important role in the Greek economy,” Chowdury continued.

 

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