Guest workers forced into 'slave-like' employ

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson
TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson - [email protected]
Guest workers forced into 'slave-like' employ

Foreign guest workers are being tricked into coming to Sweden and forced to work under slave-like conditions, according to a new report which identifies the trade as a lucrative part of international organised crime.


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.

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.


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