• Sweden edition
 
EU rules leave migrant pickers out in the cold

EU rules leave migrant pickers out in the cold

Published: 08 Aug 2012 15:41 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 Aug 2012 15:41 GMT+02:00

A recent spike in violence and reports of poor working and living conditions of the migrant berry pickers have raised concerns among Swedes and brought the merit of the European Union’s labor policies into question.

According to migrant labour expert Mats Kullander of Oxford Research, a Stockholm-based think tank, the problem lies in the lack of employment contracts for EU migrant workers.

“EU citizens are no longer required to have an employment contract. That has been the most serious change in recent years,” he told The Local.

By contrast, berry pickers from outside the EU are only permitted to work in Sweden when they have a contract guaranteeing them a monthly wage as well as certain living expenses for the duration of their stay in Sweden.

Incidents of theft, assault and even allegations of human trafficking have arisen in recent weeks in the normally tranquil region around the city of Uppsala, some 70 kilometres north of Stockholm.

At an isolated campsite in the woods about two kilometers from Mehedeby, Turkish-speaking Bulgarians expressed their disappointment with what they have found in Sweden.

“Last year we got paid 25 kronor ($3.67) per kilo, this year it’s 12 kronor per kilo,” said one Bulgarian man from the Baltic Mountains who refused to give his name.

Wild blueberries sold by street vendors in Sweden typically sell in 150 gramme containers for about 25 kronor each. If bought by the kilo for 12 kronor each that would amount to a vendor’s profit of nearly 1,300 percent.

In addition to the low price for berries, the squalid conditions evident in the migrants’ camp are on par with that of a refugee camp.

The camp which houses about 100 Bulgarians, including children, had no toilets, showers, electricity, or sources of clean drinking water.

Violent incidents have also taken place including recent stone-throwing and brawling amongst the workers, leading to both arrests and hospitalizations.

Security is the main concern for Michael, a 25-year-old Bulgarian father of two living at the Mehedeby campsite. He claimed that some Swedes had been aggressive toward the migrant workers.

“We cannot feel safe because they were trying to attack us. I don’t know why, maybe they have some reason. Maybe they’ve seen someone stealing from them and have followed him here. I don’t know why,” he told The Local.

Last week approximately 200 Bulgarians were repatriated following an accusation of human trafficking and a subsequent sit-in by at least 100 Bulgarians at their country’s embassy in Stockholm.

“There were two people who came to the police and told us that they were here against their free will," explained Lisa Sannervik of the Uppsala police to The Local.

"The police started an investigation and one person, a 43 year old man, was arrested. These three people involved have now left for Bulgaria.”

Solutions to the security, economic, and living condition problems of the migrants have not been easily ascertainable.

According to Michael, the situation would improve by having the Bulgarians register their addresses and license plate numbers with Swedish authorities.

“Next year I just want the community to give us some place where we can stay. Also, I want the police to record all the license plates of the cars of those living there," he said, adding that such actions would make police reports simpler for any potential victims.

For Kullander, the next step is to acquire better information about the conditions of the migrant workers while also distributing information regarding the actual labor conditions in Sweden to would-be migrants still in Bulgaria.

“We have many questions unanswered. How many workers are in Sweden right now? Nobody knows exactly. Where do they come from? How much do they get paid, and so on. That issue has to be researched further,” he said.

“There needs to be better information for those people hoping to make an income explaining what the chances of that happening actually are.”

Jacob Sommer

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

16:55 August 8, 2012 by johan rebel
The EU ought to have left Bulgaria and Romania out in the cold, instead of admitting those of corrupt, primitive and undemocratic third-world countries as members.
16:59 August 8, 2012 by Scepticion
@ johan rebel. Why? Who else is going to pick berries for the Swedes at prices that Swedes can afford?
17:13 August 8, 2012 by k2kats
Rather than simply warn workers not to come pick berries in Sweden, why not establish standards for those who employ migrant workers?

Or is the issue that current standards not being enforced?
17:46 August 8, 2012 by Migga
I belive the issue is that there are more migrant workers tricked into going to Sweden then the number that are employed. The bulgarian men who were arrested and repatriated would be an indication of that.
04:21 August 9, 2012 by stablemate77
tell me really why people want to pick these berries.... for few moneys and a good life already becomes.....
22:21 August 9, 2012 by DAVID T
Baltic Mountains in Bulgaria?

We should give them nice apartments with heating and TV and free hand outs - Hell we do it for all the other immigrants - Why don't they get all the unemployable immigrants already here to pick the berries - They can get off their lazy backsides and earn their free ride
23:18 August 11, 2012 by JulieLou40
Surely the answer is for the migrant workers to turn up, pick the berries and then sell them on the streets in those 150g containers, themselves? Cut out the middle-man, so to speak.
17:37 August 13, 2012 by alecLoTh
Calm down David T. karma is a female dog. As a tax-paying citizen (Im assuming you are), you are well within your rights to question how the money is spent, but that does not empower you to denigrate the efforts of others or belittle their plight - especially when you make sweeping generalisations that border on lunacy.

I was an immigrant in Sweden and got absolutely nothing, I wasn't expecting anything. I got a job, the worst you can imagine - one you would probably refuse...all this despite the fact I was educated and qualified in IT...

No TV, no hand out, crappy apartment I paid for in an area you probably have never been to....nor would want to I'd imagine.

I often heard how it would have been better if I were totally unqualified, preferably illiterate and or a refugee. According to the state, I should be able to fend for myself - not a bad assumption, as I had made the very same one in coming to Sweden.

Many job applications later I discovered that contracting to foreign companies outside Sweden was not only easier, but probably the only way I could eat. It made no sense to remain. I promptly left without ever having cost you or any Swed a cent. I left a few months ago and often read with relief emails from Swedish companies telling me I didnt get the job this time, but to try some other time.... I dread to think what my position now would be had I remained.

I'm not blaming anyone in Sweden for how things turned out for me. Decisions have consequences. I'm saying stop assuming all immigrants are the same.
Today's headlines
Opinion
'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'
The submarine hunt is now in it's sixth day. Photo: TT

'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'

Military expert Johanne Hildebrandt tells The Local that the biggest question in the Stockholm submarine hunt hasn't been answered yet - why don't we know more about the "other operations" from the last few years? READ  

The Local List
Eight things to love about renting in Sweden
Apartments in Sweden are compact. Photo: Shutterstock

Eight things to love about renting in Sweden

A housing crisis means that short-term sublets are the norm in major cities and rent regulation rules are frequently flouted. But this week, The Local's decided to look on the bright side of renting an apartment in Sweden. READ  

Business & Money
Nordea banks big third-quarter profit gain
Nordea's Chief Executive Christian Clausen. Photo: TT

Nordea banks big third-quarter profit gain

Swedish bank Nordea announced on Wednesday a sharp rise in third quarter profits despite the economic slowdown and major outlays for an IT overhaul. READ  

National
Knutby priest faces early release from prison
Knutby in eastern Sweden, the scene of the murder. Photo: TT

Knutby priest faces early release from prison

A former priest in eastern Sweden who was sentenced to life in prison for organizing the murder of his wife has had his sentence reduced. READ  

Opinion
'Sweden will see Russia as a threat again'

'Sweden will see Russia as a threat again'

The Local speaks to one of Europe's leading security experts about why social media meant the Swedish military couldn't keep their 'submarine' search a secret and how she believes the country will ramp up its security against Russia. READ  

Interview
'Swedes are funnier than they think'
Comedian Al Pitcher has launched his new tour. Photo: www.alpitcher.com

'Swedes are funnier than they think'

New Zealand-born Al Pitcher launched his new comedy show in Stockholm this week. There wasn't a dull moment as The Local phoned up the man who has become one of Sweden's hottest comedians, while he took an eventful stroll in the capital. READ  

National
Stockholm suicide bomb investigation closes
The suicide bombing took place in 2010. Photo: TT

Stockholm suicide bomb investigation closes

Sweden's Security Service (Säpo) has announced that it will stop its core investigation into a suicide bombing in Stockholm four years ago. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Military heads into 'new phase' in sub search
The search for the missing 'submarine' is now in its sixth day. Photo: TT

Military heads into 'new phase' in sub search

A press conference on the search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters revealed that the Armed Forces would be heading into a "new phase" on Wednesday, although it remained unclear what that might involve. READ  

Lifestyle
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
The bronze replica cannon. Photo: Beth Dacey.

Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden

A replica of one of the cannons present on Stockholm's iconic Vasa warship when it sank in 1628 is being tested for the first time in central Sweden. READ  

Health
Swedish farmers contracted swine flu
Swine flu can spread between pigs and humans. Photo: TT

Swedish farmers contracted swine flu

A human strain of the swine flu virus normally only found in pigs was discovered in Sweden earlier this year, the country's Public Health Agency has revealed. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den hr?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
National
What's on in Sweden
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

999
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN