• Sweden's news in English

Swedish forestry firms in migrant labour scandal

23 Jan 2013, 08:53

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.

Story continues below…

"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

Follow The Local on Twitter

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?
Today's headlines
14,000 illegal immigrants disappear without trace
Swedish police officers patrolling Stockholm. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

14,000 illegal immigrants disappear without trace

2 hours ago

More than 14,000 foreign nationals told to leave Sweden have instead gone underground, with police saying there is little they can do to enforce deportation orders.

Ahoy! Swede builds giant pirate ship in his garden
This picture of the boat has more than 14,700 likes on Facebook. Photo: Private

Ahoy! Swede builds giant pirate ship in his garden

2 hours ago

A Swedish man found Facebook fame after pictures of a giant pirate ship he built for his children when he was on sick leave from work went viral on Friday.

'She's a forerunner and inspiration for startups'
Niklas Zennström, Jane Walerud and Jessica Stark. Photo: SUP46

'She's a forerunner and inspiration for startups'

4 hours ago

A US-born entrepreneur who has helped pave the way for women in tech has joined the ranks of some of Sweden's top innovators and businesspeople in a Swedish startup hall of fame.

Swedish court: 'We cannot ban Pirate Bay'
Bredbandsbolaget was not compelled to block the Swedish file-sharing site, Pirate Bay. Vilhelm Stokstad / TT

Swedish court: 'We cannot ban Pirate Bay'

6 hours ago

In a landmark decision, a Swedish court on Friday ruled that the country's internet service providers cannot be forced to block controversial Swedish file-sharing site Pirate Bay.

Police: we can't protect Sweden from terrorists
Swedish police guarding the government building in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Police: we can't protect Sweden from terrorists

7 hours ago

After Sweden raised its terror threat alert to record high levels last week, more and more police officers on the beat warn that their weapons are not good enough to prevent a potential terror attack.

Swedish school: 'We have not banned Lucia'
Children celebrating Lucia in Stockholm. Photo: Jack Mikrut/TT

Swedish school: 'We have not banned Lucia'

8 hours ago

A Swedish nursery school has insisted it is not banning a beloved December tradition after a Facebook message posted by a furious parent went viral.

Winter in Sweden presented by Kungsberget
Stockholm's secret ski resort: Kungsberget
Catch air at the Kungsberget snowpark. File photo: Kungsberget

Stockholm's secret ski resort: Kungsberget

10 hours ago

Not everyone enjoys 8-hour car trips or expensive train tickets just to hit the slopes. That's why so many Stockholmers opt for Kungsberget – the majestic mountain just two hours away. The Local finds out more.

Winter in Sweden presented by Lofsdalen
Lofsdalen: The real Swedish wilderness
File photo: Lofsdalen

Lofsdalen: The real Swedish wilderness

11 hours ago

Sweden has more than a hundred ski resorts – but there’s only one where you can sip your very own cask of whisky on the top of a mountain peak. The Local finds out more about Lofsdalen – one of Sweden’s wildest resorts.

Will Swedish shoppers go nuts for Black Friday?
Shoppers at the Walmart chain in the US on Black Friday. Photo: Gunnar Rathbun/Invision for Walmart/AP Images

Will Swedish shoppers go nuts for Black Friday?

11 hours ago

Stores are pushing to convince Swedish shoppers to embrace US sales day 'Black Friday'. But will the phenomenon catch on?

The Local Recipes
How to make Swedish mulled wine: glögg
Swedish mulled wine served the traditional way. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

How to make Swedish mulled wine: glögg

13 hours ago

One drink in particular keeps the Swedes warm in winter: glögg. The beverage has been a Christmas tradition in Sweden since the 1890s. John Duxbury shares his favourite recipe with The Local.

Sponsored Article
11 reasons students pick Stockholm University
POLL: Swedes back new asylum rules
Sponsored Article
Top five UK weekend getaways from Sweden
Five weirdest Christmas attacks on Sweden's famous straw goat
Sponsored Article
After Paris: 'The war is not only against Isis'
Blog updates

25 November

So What Does An Ambassador Do? (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"I know that my mum is super proud that I’m an Ambassador. But if you asked..." READ »


20 November

Editor’s blog, November 20th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, It has been a long and busy week for The Local as we reported on..." READ »

Five myths about Sweden's refugees
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm solved a startup’s housing crisis
How did this missing Swedish cat turn up in southern France?
Sponsored Article
Swedish researchers find Ice Age 'missing link'
Sponsored Article
Lofsdalen: The real Swedish wilderness
Sponsored Article
Beaches, bikes, and buds: studying in Malmö
Would you eat this Swedish pizza?
People-watching: November 25th
What do Swedes want for Christmas?
GUIDE: How to help refugees if you live in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Sweden must combat extremist 'mirage'
Mystery ice circle in Swedish river
IN PICTURES: New royal winter snaps of Sweden's Princess Estelle
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
How to figure out healthcare abroad
Stockholm film festival's top movies
Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: the new epicentre of global leadership
Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se
Sponsored Article
‘Food choices in Sweden destroy forests in Asia’
People-watching: November 20th-22nd
Swedish King calls for bathtub ban
Analysis & Opinion
Why you should care about Sweden raising its terror threat level
Sponsored Article
The cheapest and fastest way to transfer money
Stockholm's best international bars
Is this the best warning sign ever?
Why are more Swedes getting fat?
Sweden's tribute to Paris victims
What is Sweden's sexiest name?
VIDEO: Madonna's emotional tribute to Paris victims at Stockholm gig
Nine of the merriest Swedish Christmas fairs
Sweden cashes in on new kronor banknotes
jobs available
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: