Migrant Workers Shooting in Greece Sets Off #BloodStrawberries Boycott

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

Supervisors shot and injured dozens of undocumented migrant workers from Bangladesh in the strawberry farms of southwestern Nea Manolada for demanding months of owed wages, the latest incident in a country where antipathy toward immigrants is on the rise.

The horrific show of violence on April 17, 2013 sparked uproar throughout Greece, prompting netizens to launch a boycott of the “blood” strawberries that originate at the scene of the crime.

Following national and international outcry, Greek police arrested three suspects in connection with the shooting, and charged them with attempted murder on April 19, 2013. The country's citizen protection minister promised that none of the victims would be deported from Greece, and the ministry announced that it is considering granting them residency permits on humanitarian grounds.

This grainy mobile phone video, posted on YouTube by Kathimerini journalist Kostas Onisenko, shows the injured migrant workers laying on the ground a few minutes after they were shot:

Racism and ethnic nationalism on the rise in the economically devastated country, with extremists, such as the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” party, thriving on racist rhetoric, systematic violations of human rights, and the ill-treatment of immigrants.

Just three days before the Manolada incident, Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias, as well as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, were criticized in a report issued by the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights for rhetoric stigmatising migrant. Dedalos (@dedalos_gl) commented on Twitter:

@dedalos_gl: What was the greek government's answer to the late report for the human rights in greece #Manolada#Dendias_resignation

Initially, mainstream TV channels barely — if at all — mentioned events in Manolada. It was Twitter users from Greece and those responding from abroad that drew public attention to the incident, as Craig Wherlock (@teacherdude) pointed out:

@teacherdude: Greek TV news shamed into covering #Manolada shooting. This afternoon, it was 6th item on NET and not reported at all on Star. See my TL

As news of the shooting spread, Twitter erupted in shock and outrage. User @MavriMelani shared a photograph of the wounded workers:

@MavriMelaniΦωτογραφια με τραυματισμενους μεταναστες μετα τη δολοφονικη επιθεση που δέχθηκαν#Manolada

@MavriMelaniPhoto of injured immigrants after the murderous attack they received #Manolada #rbnews

Giorgio (@Zorzinio) commented on the violent scene in the photograph, referencing the bombings that killed three and injured hundreds in Boston that same day:

@Zorzinio: Οταν είδα την φωτο νόμιζα ότι ήταν απο Βοστώνη!! #Manolada #rbnews

@Zorzinio: When I saw the photo I thought it was from Boston!

Cyberella (@Cyberela) invoked the American far-right white supremacist group the Klu Klux Klan:

@Cyberela: Reviving the KKK at #manolada. Migrants being shot because they demanded their 6 months owed fees. #bloodstrawberries

Questioning how something so terrible could happen, Katerina Kanelidou (@KatKanelidou) wrote:

@KatKanelidou: How do we allow such things to happen? Do we still call ourselves ‘civilized'? #manolada #Greece

Harris (@hchrono) saw the tragedy as a step backwards for Greece:

@hchrono: Slavery and barbarity. Greece welcomes the Middle Ages #manolada

Combining the titles of the famous song by The Beatles and a film about the Cambodian genocide, Bilibidon (@bilibidon) quipped:

@bilibidon: Strawberry Killing Fields Forever… #manolada


Boycott Manolada strawberries graphic, tweeted by @giannisg_

Graphic urging a boycott of Manolada, tweeted by @giannisg_

Citizen media boycott

A citizen media campaign [el] was launched to urge consumers and businesses worldwide to boycott the #bloodstrawberries, as protesters are calling them, from the Nea Manolada farm:

@moumouris#greece #manolada field workers are paid with bullets. don't buy #bloodstrawberries

@IrateGreek: My mum was at the fruit stand in the supermarket. An old man behind her whispered: “Don't buy strawberries.” #manolada #bloodstrawberries

@alepouda: 2 supermarkets in #greece are banning #bloodstrawberries of #manolada after emails send by people http://goo.gl/ax96L #boycott

@myScarletCarpet: Do you like strawberries? What about #BloodStrawberries? http://scarletcarpet.blogspot.com/2013/04/too-many-strawberries-will-kill-you.html …

International response to the campaign prompted an official reaction from the EU Home Affairs Commissioner on Twitter:

@MalmstromEU: Shocking news about shooting of migrant workers in Greece. I expect full investigation by the Greek authorities/CM bbc.co.uk/news/world-eur…

“My little sister is boycotting #bloodstrawberries”. Photo tweeted by Maria Sidiropoulou

A form of modern slavery

Although the severity of the incident is unprecedented, it's not isolated. Efforts have been made in the past to draw the attention of authorities to this form of modern slavery, such as a 2008 investigative report by journalists Dina Daskalopoulou and Makis Nodaros for which an English translation is available here.

There have been similar incidents before in the same area, with scant coverage in mainstream media, as the writer and activist collective The Multicultural Politic wrote:

[…] Activists from Greek Communist Party [initiated] a campaign in 2008 for a daily wage increase from 22 Euros to 25. The workers and campaigners were met with a violent confrontation in which many workers were beaten suffering serious injury. [..] Further investigations by journalists revealed how local municipal officials were selling fake documentation to migrant workers, and police prosecutions meant that employers in the town became very hostile to “Athenian” journalists which might partly explain the limited information that has been reported about the most recent violence.

In August 2012, an Egyptian worker was dragged with a car through the streets of Nea Manolada town, but the incident didn't trigger a closer look at the working and living conditions of farm workers in the area by authorities. One of three foremen awaiting trial for the latest shooting was the suspected perpetrator of the car dragging.

Journalist Yannis Baboulias explained the reasons for the continuing impunity:

The farmers of Manolada, praised many a times for their entrepreneurial spirit from government and media alike, have enjoyed this impunity for years. Nodaros’ report speaks of shacks in which the workers are forced to live and pay rent for to their bosses, illegal supermarkets among them selling expired products at two and three times their price, and a shocking tolerance from the authorities who have done nothing to stop this despite the 150 plus cases on file against them.

@Cyberela: In conclusion it seems that #Greece‘s officials knew about the conditions & celebrated @ European forums the “red gold” innovation #Manolada

At the time of writing this article, a dedicated blog has been set up to promote the boycott call in seven languages [en, de, es, fr, it, pl, pt], and cancellations for standing orders of strawberries from Nea Manolada are continuing.

The incident was storified by journalist Nikos Moumouris and by GV author Asteris Masouras, who contributed to this report, while BeatriceDeDante collected the imagery of the incident.

This post is part of our special coverage Europe in Crisis.

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