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Berry pickers targeted in rock-throwing attack

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16:30 CEST+02:00
Berry pickers at a makeshift camp in eastern Sweden were forced to call police on Wednesday night after unknown assailants threw rocks at them in the latest round of escalating tensions between locals and the migrant workers.

The camp, in Mehedeby, south of Gävle, was set up with permission from the land owner and is now home to several hundred berry pickers, most of whom are from Bulgaria.

The attack is believed to have been carried out by nearby residents, with local youths being the likely suspects, according to police.

“That’s correct. But there wasn’t any actual fighting and no one was hurt,” said Peter Jonsson of the Uppland police to the TT news agency.

“When we arrived there was no one left. And the lack of a common language made it hard to find out exactly what had happened. There is information that suggests someone was hit by a rock, but we didn’t find anyone that was injured,” Jonsson said.

The incident comes amid growing concerns about the berry picker settlement, prompting meetings with locals with police warning that they “don’t want the situation to get any worse”.

Police have also increased the security level surrounding the camp.

However, Lynn Lindström, of the Mehedeby property owners association explains that the berry pickers have been causing problems for the residents.

“Local residents come to us with complaints and are very upset. We have to do something about it,” she said.

“They have fires, wind protection, cars and kids. It’s incredible. You’d have to see it to believe it. We can’t get to our bathing area because they are using the area to wash their cars, clothes, and to defecate.

“Of course, the whole thing is a shame but the situation is intolerable.”

According to police, several reports have been made by local residents claiming that things have been disappearing from their gardens.

The Expressen newspaper reported that petrol had been siphoned from cars and rubbish bins being ransacked.

However, police deny that there has been a proven increase in vandalism or criminal activity.

“But as far as I know, no one has been identified. It's more a feeling that people have, that they believe they are berry pickers, but that’s not enough. No actual person is suspected. In these cases, you have to catch someone red handed," said Christer Nordström of the Uppsala police to TT.

“Many people don’t want to leave their gardens and this is an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s complicated because we have this freedom – it’s closer to being a political issue."

TT/The Local/og

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