Greece's migrant fruit pickers: 'They kept firing. There was blood everywhere'
Is a man worth nothing when he is branded illegal? Tipu Chowdhury has spent the past 17 months wondering. The answer has not been easy. Even now, after being forced to endure subhuman living conditions, after being starved and worked like a slave, the Bangladeshi does not speak ill of Greece. Instead of anger, there is resignation, an almost fatalistic acceptance that this is the life meted out to those who go ”undocumented”.
Had he and his fellow strawberry pickers not been shot at – had the case not reached the courts and the men who did the shooting not been scandalously freed – he might not have pondered the question at all.
"When they pointed their guns at us, and there were around 200 of us gathered in that space, we thought they were joking," says Chowdhury of the April 2013 attack. "After all, we hadn’t been paid for more than five months. We couldn’t believe it when they actually began shooting."
This week, unions, anti-racist groups and peasant workers’ associations will launch a solidarity campaign in support of the Bangladeshis, starting with a mass demonstration timed to coincide with a speech the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, will give on Sunday outlining the government’s economic policy at the international trade fair in Thessaloniki. As preparations get under way, 33-year-old Chowdhury has found himself reliving the events of that day, one that would go down as the worst assault in Europe on migrant workers in living memory.