• 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

Over the last decade migrant workers scouring the woods of central Sweden for berries have become a common sight. However, after reports of poor conditions and violence, contributor Jacob Sommer heads to a campsite in eastern Sweden to find out more.

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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

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
Eco-conscious Swedes in hen house trend
Chickens photo: Shutterstock.

Eco-conscious Swedes in hen house trend

Fresh eggs from the hen house at the bottom of the garden is the latest eco-friendly fad being pursued by Swedish urbanites ready to run the risk of a little neighbourhood friction to keep their Saturday pancakes organic. READ () »

Football fan father leaves baby in sweltering car
Parked car photo: Shutterstock.

Football fan father leaves baby in sweltering car

A baby was saved from a car parked in the stifling heat outside of a football stadium in western Sweden on Sunday with the child's father believed to be at the game. READ () »

Police launch probe after Easter ferry smash
A coastguard vessel involved in the rescue operation. Photo: TT

Police launch probe after Easter ferry smash

Stockholm police are investigating criminal negligence in connection with a crash involving a small taxi vessel and a giant Finland-bound ferry on Friday which left three people needing rescue from the icy waters of Stockholm's archipelago. READ () »

Ikea to introduce 'green' vegetarian meatballs

Ikea to introduce 'green' vegetarian meatballs

Swedish furniture giant Ikea is planning to put vegetarian meatballs on the menu in an attempt to cut down on its carbon footprint, the company has announced. READ () »

Students to keep paying off debt beyond 67

Students to keep paying off debt beyond 67

The Swedish government has proposed scrapping the 25-year span for repaying student loans, by suggesting those who attend higher education should keep paying the money back well into retirement. READ () »

Drowned puppies found in crayfish cage
The crayfish cage in the picture is not the one mentioned in the story. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Drowned puppies found in crayfish cage

Police in eastern Sweden have launched a preliminary investigation of animal cruelty after two puppies were found drowned in a crayfish cage. READ () »

Three rescued after cruise ship sinks boat
Rickard Rundgren Björk of the coastguard services speaks to the media after the rescue operation on April 19th 2014. Photo: Maja Suslin /TT

Three rescued after cruise ship sinks boat

Three Saturday morning sailors had a lucky escape after their small boat collided and sank after it crashed into a cruise ship whilst sailing in the Stockholm archipelago. READ () »

Missing Swede found alive and well in UK
Sofie Marie Jansson. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Missing Swede found alive and well in UK

British police have found the missing Swedish girl Sofie Jansson in London, exactly a week after she was last seen, with authorities saying she is doing well. READ () »

Social Democrats make tax pledge to elderly

Social Democrats make tax pledge to elderly

Sweden's opposition party has stepped up its efforts to secure the pensioner vote by pledging to lower taxes for the elderly and make higher earners pay more. READ () »

Malmö Nazi attack victim on the mend
Showan Shattak pictured in Malmö before his attack. Photo: Facebook

Malmö Nazi attack victim on the mend

The 25-year-old man, whose stabbing by neo-Nazis sparked mass demonstrations across Sweden, has made a strong recovery in hospital and took to social media to thank supporters for campaigning against fascism. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
TT
Society
Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
Shutterstock
National
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
Advertisement:
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
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 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

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

718
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