June 4, 2021
A behind-the-scenes look at Greece’s “red gold” harvest
A photo essay by Thodoris Nikolaou
June 4, 2021
A behind-the-scenes look at Greece’s “red gold” harvest
A photo essay by Thodoris Nikolaou

Almost all of Greece’s strawberry production takes place in northwestern Peloponnese, in the plains of eastern Ilia, where the fields extend over 15,000 stremmata (approx. 3,750 acres).

During the harvest season, up to 10,000 land workers, mainly from Bangladesh and Pakistan, live in the wider area called Manolada, which includes the villages of Nea Manolada, Manolada, Neo Vouprasio, Lappa, and Varda.

For at least 15 years, next to the greenhouses filled with strawberry crops, makeshift camps have sprung up, consisting of shacks made of reeds and plastic. Thousands of workers are housed in these camps − people who live and work in horrible conditions reminiscent of exploitation.

In recent years, Solomon has been closely monitoring the reality of this “invisible” migrant community, which numbers in the thousands. It’s a community which supports the rapid growth and revenue of Greece’s “red gold” − an industry that generates tens of millions of euros in exports, and an industry that has also led Greece to face conviction in international courts.

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This photo essay is published in the context of Solomon’s in-depth series of reports on “Migrant workers in Greece in the time of COVID-19″ and is supported by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Office in Greece.

More than 90% of the total strawberry production in Greece is produced in the ​​Manolada area, a crop which is almost entirely available for export.

According to estimates by local producers, by 2025 the strawberry fields in Manolada are likely to expand to cover 25,000 stremmata (approximately 6,200 acres).

Next to the strawberry fields, up to 10,000 land workers from Bangladesh and Pakistan are housed in makeshift camps, living in substandard conditions.

The majority of migrants working in the region are undocumented. The most recent legislative initiatives in Greece have not offered a real solution which would ensure decent and safe living and working conditions.

Kasef, from Pakistan, has been in Greece for a year. He crossed the Greek-Turkish border at the Evros River. He works in the fields of Manolada for a daily wage which is lower than what the Bangladeshi workers earn.

At the height of the strawberry season when there are up to 10,000 Bangladeshi land workers in the area, some Bangladeshis have set up shops to serve the community and sell products from Bangladesh.

A makeshift kitchen in a camp, constructed with tin and wood.

In the camps, the workers sleep in dozens of shacks, which they build and maintain themselves with leftover materials from the greenhouses, such as reeds, plastic sheets, as well as wooden pallets and fabrics.

A Pakistani land worker rests in a corner of a warehouse where he lives with 65 other men, each paying €30 to €40 per month in rent.

Residents in the camps do not have access to clean, running water. They wash outdoors using water from tanks and use holes in the ground as toilets.

Workers who live next to the greenhouses, pray in a makeshift place of worship.

A migrant shows the death announcement of his compatriot. He tells us the man committed suicide a few days before our visit. According to the land workers, four to five of their compatriots die in Manolada every year.

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