Socialist Worker

Migrant workers in Greece defy bullets and fight on

by Dave Sewell, in Greece
Issue No. 2351

Migrant workers protesting in Manolada last weekend

Migrant workers protesting in Manolada last weekend (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Cheering and chants in Bengali rang out across the western Greek countryside last Sunday. 

Around 2,000 undocumented migrant workers and their supporters defied brutal repression and marched on the village of Manolada. 

They handed in a mass application for the right to live in Greece legally.

“My boss is a bloody idiot,” said Koasier Farooq. “It’s always work, work, work. We have no money and no papers. Now I want change.”

Less than two weeks before some of the same workers were being shot at by their bosses for having the audacity to demand their wages.

Workers who pick strawberries had gone six months without receiving their pay on the Vagilatos farm.

“Every time I went to the owner of the farm he would say, ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow’,” Muhamed Julhashmiah from Bangladesh told Socialist Worker. On the last pay day an angry crowd of 200 workers went to the managers.

“I said to him, ‘Are you paying or not?’ He said if I wasn’t happy he could give my job to someone else,” said Muhamed. 

“This is a manager who is on £127,000 a year, talking to workers who have got nothing. Both sides were getting angry. So he called his friends to join him.

“That’s when they got out the guns.” The managers injured 33 workers. Muhamed is still laid up with a broken leg.

Most of the migrants are from Bangladesh, though some are from Pakistan, Bulgaria and Romania. 

Legal

The Greek government makes it almost impossible for them to gain papers to have legal status.

But the Manolada shootings were too much for workers to take.

“We need papers,” said Kaleem Ullah. “We want the right to see our families back home and then return to work. We work hard, seven hours a day for £19, and still they give us no papers.

“I’ve been working like this for four years. That’s why I’m protesting, and why we should keep protesting.”

Together with activists from the KEERFA anti-racist coalition, workers voted for the demonstration at a mass meeting days after the shootings.

Hundreds have signed up to the Union of Immigrant Workers organisation. 

And with support from the regional labour centre, they are building an official land workers’ union.

They are demanding legalisation for everyone, full payment of the six months’ withheld wages to the Vagilatos workers, £25 for a day’s work and equality with their Greek workers.

Their fight has already sent shockwaves across Greece. 

“Our other demand is humanity,” said Javied Aslam, president of the Union of Immigrant Workers told Socialist Worker. 

“We don’t want to be treated like animals.

“We are all workers, whether we are from Greece, Pakistan or Bangladesh, and we should all be paid the same rate.”


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