Foreign workers are seen in their settlement at a strawberry plantation… (TAKIS PANAYIOTOPOULOS…)
ATHENS — Police scoured much of Greece’s rural south Thursday searching for three strawberry plantation foremen suspected in the shootings of 29 foreign workers in a pay dispute that has fanned fear of rising racism.
None of the workers, mainly from Bangladesh, suffered life-threatening injuries. But many sustained multiple gunshot wounds when at least one of the foremen at a plantation in the Peloponnese, about 160 miles southwest of Athens, went on a rampage late Wednesday, opening fire on about 200 workers demanding back pay, workers told authorities.
The plantation’s owner and a local man accused of helping the foremen, who fled after the shootings, were arrested Thursday.
“We’re not leaving any stone unturned,” said a senior police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. “There is not a police unit in the south of the country that has not been mobilized.”
Home to thousands of illegal workers, the sprawling plains of Manolada have frequently come under the spotlight amid allegations of labor exploitation. Grainy videos of the shootings Wednesday went viral and social media weighed in, with some people launching campaigns to boycott the fruit from Manolada, calling them “bloody strawberries.”
Greece has been struggling with rising illegal immigration while trying to cope with its worst economic crisis since World War II. With one in three Greeks unemployed, anti-immigrant sentiments have surged.
The Council of Europe, the main European human rights watchdog, issued a report this week detailing abuse of migrants in Greece. Embarrassed by the plantation shootings, the government quickly vowed swift and exemplary punishment for the assailants.
“This barbarous attack ... conjures up images of a slavery-based South [in the United States] that have no place in our country,” Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis said. “It will not go unpunished.”
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