Assistant Prof Global Development Studies Reena Kukreja claims:

“Migrant strawberry pickers in Greece face deadly risks living in flammable shacks”

Each year, from October to May, as many as 12,000 undocumented Bangladeshi migrant men work in the Greek agrarian labour market. Although they consider Greece a transit stop to other European countries, most end up staying for years. The migrant farm workers say the farmers reap rich profits but are so far unwilling to provide decent housing for them.

The workers are forced to rent unused farmland and build highly inflammable makeshift shacks called barangas. These are constructed out of salvaged plastic sheets, cardboard and reeds.

Greece is the 10th biggest exporter of strawberries in the world. Strawberry farming is labour-intensive. Once picked, the fruit perishes quickly. This puts a huge demand on the fast-paced yet careful harvest of unblemished strawberries. Migrant workers form the backbone of this farming, and it’s work that locals appear unwilling to do.

Migrant labour has enabled farmers to undertake a scale increase, expand their agricultural activity by leasing under-utilized farmlands to make larger farms, modernize farming and market their produce to wider markets.

According to theconversation.com, workers regularly lose everything in the frequent fires. Clusters of 10-17 barangas each house a minimum of 200-350 workers. With a rent of US$33-38 per baranga, a farmer stands to earn US$500-550 per month from just one baranga alone during the season.


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