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Swedish forestry firms in migrant labour scandal

Published: 23 Jan 2013 08:53 GMT+01:00

"We're talking about human trafficking, plain and simple," Tommy Andersson of GS, the Swedish union of forestry, wood and graphical workers, told Svergies Television (SVT) investigative news programme Uppdrag granskning.

According to a programme to be broadcast on Wednesday night, Swedish forestry giants SCA and Holmen hire agents to recruit migrant workers from Cameroon, luring them to Sweden with false promises of good pay.

The practice has been going on for the past two years and involves sending documents to the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) indicating the workers will earn 18,500 kronor ($2,825) per month and which have been approved by the union.

But the promised wages appear only to exist on paper, according to Uppdrag granskning.

When the Cameroonian workers arrive in the forests of northern Sweden, they are forced to carry out piece work for much lower pay.

They were also forced to pay hefty fees to the agents before being allowed to start working in the first place.

When some of the workers complained, the agent threatened to burn down their homes back in Cameroon, according to the SVT report.

Six months after the end of the planting season, many of the Cameroonian workers remain in Sweden as undocumented immigrants.

They lack housing, money, and work and are afraid to return home because they lack money to pay off the debts incurred to make the journey to Sweden.

The Swedish forestry firms told Uppdrag granskning they were also "duped" by the recruiting agents, but claim they have no obligation to help the workers with their predicament.

"We have a contract agreement with businesslike provisions with the agent. We don't have any agreement which involves any responsibility for their staff," Jan Sandström, regional manager with Holmen AB, told SVT.

TT/The Local/dl

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Your comments about this article

10:30 January 23, 2013 by bourgeoisieboheme
Sounds like these guys just want a way in to the land of the free handouts. Not sure I buy the asylum seekers stories. Seems anyone can claim anything these days and get to stay in Sweden... unless you are a skilled worker who wants to move from, Canada or the US, then you are stuck.
11:03 January 23, 2013 by skatty
If Sweden could manage to establish some colonies in Africa and Asia for some centuries ago (like the rest of Western European countries, which can manage to get cheap labor from their previous colonies, and force them to low paid jobs in Europe) then the Swedish companies did not have to lure migrant workers to low paid jobs in Sweden.

Sweden could get cheap labor legally and happily abuse them without much problem (it did not even have to get lot of refugees and unhappily call them immigrants who suppose to work as cheap labor!)
11:23 January 23, 2013 by Rishonim
This story sounds rather fishy to me. First of all, I never heard of any Swedish company happily employing black people or any one with a foreign sounding name. Secondly, Swedes always pull the you need to speak Swedish card so why would they import a bunch of people from Cameroon who can hardly speak English! (sarcasm) :-))))
13:24 January 23, 2013 by Migga
What proof is there that it`s the swedish companies luring these workers here and not the recruiting agents? Who are these recruiting agents? Swedish? Cameroonian? Third party? Is it the swedish companies fault that these workers run up a debt? Why aren`t these workers sent home when they breach their working terms and stay here illegally?
13:57 January 23, 2013 by RobinHood
Good CSR within the supply chain obviously passed poor Mr Sandström by.

It's time for Holmen to give Mr Sandström his gold watch I think.
14:59 January 23, 2013 by cabralb
Well folks, none of you came up with a point. The moment where ordinary public like me and you go wrong is when we start we find our perspectives defined in terms of nations and states. what a crap!! Here the situation is more than that. It is about a network of small greedy people misusing the opportunities lied there. Why in the first place this happens, while we boast of having a secure system? It is quite unfortunate. The same is the case with the chocolate producing companies, where we enjoy their products and never took a minute to see how the production like is constructed in a slavery-like chain. And the company here in Sweden telling they have no obligation as to what the situation of the workers, their true nature of relationships with the recruiting agencies? I can only laugh at this statement. Had it not been for this kind of investigation, the leadership of the company would proudly present themselves that 'we have the safest workers condition' You guys pissed me off.
16:06 January 23, 2013 by Rishonim
@cabralb, you are right but as usual, no one in Sweden ever take responsibility for anything and no one is held accountable for their actions. They should apply the same type of scrutiny as they do with factories employing child labour. Unfortunately in Sweden all you need to do claim ignorance and nothing will happen to you.
02:48 January 31, 2013 by Marc the Texan
So pay them what they are owed and send them home. Why do

I get the feeling that this is no longer about pay, but about staying in Sweden?
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