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TRAFFICKING

Sweden mistreats illegal berry pickers: report

Berry pickers working in Sweden without a permit are being badly mistreated, according to a new report from the labour rights watchdog Swedwatch.

Sweden mistreats illegal berry pickers: report

Foreign workers who come to Sweden without a work permit have little or no opportunity to protest against the bad working conditions and can’t turn to authorities for help or advice.

Swedwatch argues that in order to diminish the risk of foreign pickers being taken advantage of, coming to Sweden to work without papers should no longer be considered a criminal offence.

The organization also calls for wholesalers to take more responsibility for the working conditions of their foreign labour.

The group also wants to see ways to ensure that potential foreign berry pickers receive more and better information before coming to Sweden.

Sweden has recently cracked down on the practice, implementing stricter rules for recruiment agencies that bring in foreign labourers into the country.

The efforts have led to some improvements in the situation for berry pickers working in Sweden legally.

While Swedwatch isn’t sure how many undocumented labourers have been working in Sweden this season, the organization estimates the number to be close to 2,500, the organization’s Viveka Risberg told news agency TT.

The figure is based on the fact that the number of pickers that came to Sweden through legal channels was halved from about 5,000 to 2,500 compared to last year, while the amount of berries purchased didn’t diminish during the same period.

Most of the undocumented labourers came from Asia, with the majority from Thailand, and many had applied for tourist visas in Sweden to visit relatives.

According to Swedwatch, there is a huge market for false papers and letters from made-up relatives which are used when applying for visas.

Pickers have also allegedly paid out huge sums to intermediarys in order to be able to travel to Sweden.

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OBAMA

‘Ask Obama about Gitmo and labour’: opposition

Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven has said the government must address the US-run prison Guantanamo Bay prison during the upcoming visit to Sweden by US President Barack Obama.

'Ask Obama about Gitmo and labour': opposition

“We of course have questions about Guantanamo and privacy questions following Snowden,” Löfven told the TT news agency. “These are very important questions that should be discussed between countries that have good relations.”

While the government announced on Thursday that it would not release any further details of Obama’s upcoming visit at present, Swedish political scientist Jan Joel Andersson told The Local this week that it was unlikely that the prison camp on the US Naval Base in Cuba commonly referred to as “Gitmo” would be discussed, although Stockholm does have human rights concerns concerning the US.

Löfven, meanwhile, also took the opportunity to praise the the US president for his focus on restoring American industry, and spurring the growth in employment.

“He talks about re-industrializing the US, creating jobs and hope for the future,” Löfven said. “Ahead of the G20 meeting, it is important to have a strategy for jobs creation and to make sure that the global economic benefits everyone, not like it is today with big imbalances.”

Löfven said the Swedish model, based on the Saltsjöbaden Deal penned in 1938 between employers and trade unions, could serve as inspiration for an international agreement between workers and capital owners.

READ MORE: <a href="https://www.thelocal.se/44546/20121120/” target=”_blank”>Did SAS crisis talks undermine ‘Swedish model’?

“It would be great if Obama could put on the yellow jersey in this discussion,” Löfven said, urging the Swedish prime minister not to shy away from the topic on the American stop-over in Stockholm in September.

TT/The Local/at

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