Alerted by two who escaped, Greek police found scores of illegal Romanian immigrants being forced to toil like slaves on a mushroom farm in western Greece and arrested five Greeks and two Romanians on charges of human trafficking.
Authorities said the workers were brought to Greece on the promise of a job with a decent work but were forced to work mostly without pay and kept in atrocious conditions, another of a series of similar examples of immigrants being exploited despite government vows to crack down against the crime.
Authorities said the two workers who were able to flee went to the Romanian Embassy in Athens which alerted police.
The laborers told investigators that they were forced to live in squalid conditions in an abandoned warehouse, working as much as 12 hours a day, often without pay. They said they were occasionally given five euros, but were also forced to pay rent of 150 euros per month each for a small cubicle made from plywood partitions.
One of the suspects arrested is 53-year-old local farmer who is believed to have run the racket by arranging with other farmers in the area to employ the workers.
Authorities said it was believed the farm hands were brought to Greece by the other four suspects, with the Romanians acting as recruiters. A search of the 53-year-old’s home uncovered 11,000 euros in cash.
Greek farms have often come under fire for employing laborers illegally and making them work in unacceptable conditions. The most recent case was that of Bangladeshi strawberry pickers in the Peloponnese who were shot at in April by a farm’s foremen for demanding the wages they were owed.