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HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Forced labour on the rise in Sweden: report

Organized begging, forced labour and forced participation in thefts have bypassed human trafficking for sexual purposes, shows a recent report from the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen - RPS), charting the development of human trafficking in Sweden during 2010.

“This is because Swedish police officers have been trained to spot these other forms of trafficking, and because of our continued work against sexual exploitation of young foreign women,” said the board’s inspector Kajsa Wahlberg to news agency TT.

According to the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen, LO), the number of trafficking victims who come to Sweden and end up in forced labour have grown noticeably.

“We definitely think we can see that,” said Thord Ingesson, LO’s expert on migration politics.

In December 2008, Sweden changed its laws on labour migration. According to LO, however, unreported figures are presumably high, and many who’ve received legal work permits since the law change have actually been working under forced conditions.

“I guarantee you we’re talking about thousands of cases,” said Ingesson.

He points out that forced labour is difficult to reveal and examine when both employer and employee are considered criminal. Ingesson calls for changed legislation, decriminalising the employee’s stay in Sweden.

“That would also create the possibility of receiving reimbursement for lost wages, and for this humiliation.”

Those who work in Sweden without a permit often end up in places such as Crossroads, an organization that supports people from other EU countries who live in poverty or homelessness in Stockholm.

Malena Bonnier of Stockholms Stadsmission, the Swedish charity which heads up Crossroads, points to interviews made in the last two years with 68 EU migrants, most from Poland and Romania.

Out of these, only eight percent had been homeless in their homeland. In Stockholm, 70 percent of them lacked a permanent address.

Often, employment problems are at the root of their homelessness.

“Anything from not having been paid, or had to wait for your pay cheque, or your employer disappearing,” explained Bonnier to TT.

Arto Moksunen manages Crossroads’ office in the Stockholm district of Stadshagen. According to him, several of those who seek help have had an exaggerated idea of the amount of work opportunities that exist in Sweden, an image which doesn’t correspond with reality.

“There just isn’t work, and even less housing. Many become depressed,” he said to TT.

Crossroads provide food and the possibility of a shower, but also has advisors for labour market issue and bulletin boards for posting available legal employment opportunities. They also arrange meetings with possible employers.

Moksunen points out that many of those who come to Crossroads came to Sweden in search of a job.

“It’s a very high figure. I’d say around 90 percent,” he said.

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HOMELESS

Court rules multimillion Malmö homeless housing deal illegal

A 340 million (€32m) kronor deal struck by Malmö's city government to build 133 new apartments for homeless Malmö families has been ruled illegal by the Administrative Court of Appeal in Gothenburg.

Court rules multimillion Malmö homeless housing deal illegal
The plot in Limnhamn where the apartments for homeless people were to be built. Photo: Google Maps
Malmö's city government awarded the contract to Skånska Strand, owned by local businessman Tommy Månsson, without any sort of public tender, sparking an immediate outcry from opposition politicians. 
 
In August, a court in Malmö ruled that the contract was illegal, as it should have been tendered out according to Sweden's Law of Public Procurement (LOU). And on Monday, the appeals court in Gothenburg backed the Malmö court's decision. 
 
“The Administrative Court in Gothenburg judges that the purpose of the deal was to produce a building,” the court's chair Åsa Ståhl said in a press release. 
 
“The municipality has exerted a deciding influence of the construction project. The contract is therefore for a public construction project. Such a contract should be tendered under LOU. The deal is therefore deemed illegal.” 
 
Malmö and Skånska Strand had structured the 20-year-deal as a lease agreement, which Andreas Schönström, the Social Democrat councillor ultimately responsible, argued at the time meant it should be exempt from Sweden's LOU law. 
 
“Those of us who were at the meeting where Schönström smirked that it didn't need any official tender are smiling more than usual today,” wrote the Moderate MP John Roslund on his Facebook page.
 
Roslund fought the deal in 2017 and last year called the contract “one of the most remarkable things I've seen in all my years as a politician”. 
 
Much of his opposition stemmed from the decision to locate the apartments in Limhamn, a relatively middle-class district of Malmö. 
 
“A nice victory for people in Limhamn today,” he wrote. “The council's attempt to destroy Limhamn with a concentration of hundreds of homeless people ended in tears.”
 
The deal had also been criticized because Månsson owns Skånska Strand through a Cyprus-based company, meaning any profits for the deal would probably not be taxed in Sweden. 
 
It is unclear whether Malmö municipality will seek to appeal the judgement to the third and final court. 
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