Berry pickers given work permit fast track

Despite complex tax regulations and last year's labour dispute, a new attempt is being made to attract foreign berry pickers to Sweden in time for the early autumn picking season.

Potential pickers will be able to apply for a work permit at Swedish embassies on condition that they are employed by a foreign recruitment agency.

A special effort is being made in Thailand, Russia and Ukraine. The Migration Board has given Swedish embassies in Bangkok, Moscow and Kiev, and the consulate in St Petersburg, special permission to issue residence and work permits, reported Västerbottens-Kuriren.

The board will also work with the Swedish Forestberry Association (Skogsbärbranschens intresseförening), which is urging all member companies which bring in pickers from Thailand to use a recruitment agency.

Last year 2,200 Thai berry pickers came to Sweden. But 400 of them were involved in a protest near Lycksele in southern Lappland, arguing that they had been conned by local berry firms.

Tax and social costs were deducted from their salaries and the pickers said they had not been informed that this would be the case before they came to Sweden. Many returned home with half the money they had expected.