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Guest workers forced into 'slave-like' employ

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 22 Dec 2010, 07:12

Published: 22 Dec 2010 07:12 GMT+01:00

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The most common arrangement is that a recruitment firm advertises for labour, promising food and accommodation in Sweden. The workers are then rented out to other companies on low or non-existent wages.

The Institute for Security and Development Policy (ISDP) in Stockholm has on commission from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) researched the trade in human beings for labour market purposes.

The report's authors Erik Leijonmark and Walter Kegö concluded that Sweden lacks the preparedness to deal with the problem of human trafficking for forced labour purposes.

"Since the authorities and the general public’s understanding of the problem of human trafficking is shaped by the notion of sex and prostitution, exploitation of workers in human trafficking is not recognized."

The report also confirmed that the trade in labour has increased in the wake of the finance crisis and while the phenomenon is thought to be a greater problem in poorer countries, several EU countries experience the problem, with Sweden among them.

"Even though no case of human trafficking for labour exploitation purposes has been successfully brought to court so far, it is unlikely that Sweden is not affected by this form of human trafficking," Kegö and Leijonmark argued.

The report details the process whereby traffickers "abuse the loopholes" within the Shengen area to trick Baltic workers into migrating with many falling victim to exploitation. Although it is underlined that the exploitation is not limited to the Baltic region, with berry pickers from Asia also involved in the trade.

Kegö and Leijonmark cite a case involving a Swedish/Latvian recruiting company which postponed and delayed job offers for the workers and robbed them of a considerable share of their wages, with many workers receiving food and accommodation alone over the course of several years.

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The report recommends alerting law enforcement authorities of cases and to offer training in order for the crime to be recognized and prosecuted, calling on the various Swedish authorities to coordinate their approach to tackling the problem.

The Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has appointed a coordinator for issues concerning human trafficking. According to a survey by the board last spring 250 of its staff had been made aware of cases of suspected human trafficking.

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

08:39 December 22, 2010 by isenhand
Another development going along as expected. Goes with legalised slavery in the form of fas 3.
09:13 December 22, 2010 by Clarabow
Sadly this abuse is part of life in the UK too. And I am sure is also happening in other EU countries. These are not criminals but may well be forced into petty crime in order to survive. Before that they will work long hours, for little money and then have board and food deducted so that they are left with almost nothing. Their passports may well have been taken by the "gang master" for identity purposes making them vulnerable and dependent on the employer. Trapped in modern slavery. Women are even more vulnerable - forced into brothels. I read the case of a woman who was promised work in the UK, came to London only to find it was false; she ended up on the streets and finally was arrested for some petty crime and sent to prison. There she was fed and warm and not alone. Prison saved her. Under a Government scheme she received her airfare to return to her own country, but alas, for every one who goes back, a hundred more are being tricked into coming. My country prospered under the slave trade of Africans, and then fought hard to end it. Who would have thought that today we have a modern equivalent, born of poverty, greed and exploitation and mostly unseen.
10:16 December 22, 2010 by Nemesis
The fact that people need a report to even know this is happening is sickening.

It happens in two layers in Sweden.

One layer is completely illegeal and is trafficked for prostitution, slavery etc. Contrary to popular belief it is mostly Swedes responsible for that.

The other layer is the Swedish official layer of Praktik which is designed to ensure that newcomers to the country are treated like dirt. A purely Swedish idea.

If someone gets out of being trafficked and gets asylum, they are then stuck into praktik by the Swedish authorities which in reality can be the same thing. It never leads to a job. They are told after six months the employer has no job for them and another victim is rotated into there job.
10:53 December 22, 2010 by byke
In a country that doesn't employ minimum wages, it sets itself pretty low on human rights and qualities found in countries expecting a good quality of life.

While the story talks about criminals, what about legal slave labour such as the berry pickers that are brought in from different parts of the the 3rd world ... all legal, yet have no government protection from abuse.
10:58 December 22, 2010 by calebian22

Have you heard of Korta Vägen, where immigrants with college educations sit in school for a whole term learning how to fika and how to work in the Swedish work culture? At the conclusion of the term, the immigrant gets the honor of a three month practical. If you want a good laugh, check it out.

12:04 December 22, 2010 by glamshek
I know one guy who worked here with an employer for about 4 years like a slave. He worked so hard from 5:00 am to 8:00 pm, five to 6 six days a week in summer torget and in return would get only 350 SEK. Moreover, he also owed 10000 SEK which the employer would refer to as an 'extra burden'. The intresting part was that he would not complain and rather he would curse the government who treated him even worst. By the way he had a solid reasoning for cursing the system here.
13:15 December 22, 2010 by Nemesis
Sweden and Swedes should be ashamed it does not have a minimum wage.

The level of abuse of low paid workers is insane.

How cleaners and berry pickers are treated in Sweden is sick.

@ calebian22,

I know someone who finished a similar course and was offered part time Praktik cleaning. She has a degree in Nuclear physics and used to work in that area in the former USSR. She went to the US and got a job in 3 days when on holiday on over six figures a year.

She is still angry at how she was treated in Sweden and refuses to work with Swedes which has cost a few Swedes contracts in her place of work. She is in charge there:)

I helped her pay her and her kids flights to the US, as she had little. She later bought my mum and dad an all expenses holiday. Made a good friend there.
16:23 December 22, 2010 by Kaethar
@Nemesis: Nice fake story. :) If you hadn't included her breaking the law (that is, looking for a job on a holiday permit) I might have believed you. ;)
17:34 December 22, 2010 by calebian22

She can look and apply for work when she is on vacation in the US. The employer just needs to sponsor her with an H1B visa. It happens every day and guess what? It's not illegal.
19:58 December 22, 2010 by rquick

Every country on the planet has different immigration rules. Some allow you to look for work on a holiday visa, so nothing strange in Nemesis' story.

So before you make such a comment, it would be wise to browse around on the web and see if your assessment is correct or not.
20:25 December 22, 2010 by Nemesis
@ by Kaethar

Yoy just admittited by your commment that is what you are involved in.

Talk you way out of that.
22:50 December 22, 2010 by Kaethar
@All: I'm talking about American law. If any of you knew what the hell you were talking about you'd know that the US does not have a working holiday VISA programme. Looking for work whilst on holiday in the US = ILLEGAL in every possible scenario. :)
03:46 December 23, 2010 by Nemesis
@ Kaethar


People have been doing that for years.

They come back home with the job offer and get the relevant paperwork filled out. Get there Green card and then go back.

Half of Ireland seems to have done that at some point.
22:58 December 23, 2010 by för30årseden
Without this program, employers would have to pay higher wages to get Swedes or legal immigrants to accept this work -- or go out of business. That is the free market. You would think that a Social Democratic system based on strong labor unions would like the idea of allowing the market to raise wages. Go figure!
11:36 December 27, 2010 by johnny1939
We Swedes have such a good reputation all over the world as being sooo very nice and honest. It must be terrible for these unfortunates to find out a totally different reality. Well, I guess it goes along w/ the story of my country being neutral. It is all a myth...sigh..
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