Man held for smuggling berry pickers to Sweden

A man was arrested and detained by police Thursday on suspicion of people-smuggling after berry pickers in eastern Sweden claimed they were tricked into coming to the country.

Man held for smuggling berry pickers to Sweden

The man, a 43-year-old Bulgarian resident, was arrested at 7.30pm on Thursday after allegedly luring other Bulgarians into coming to Sweden with the promises of a salary, a home, and a job.

However, the workers have ended up in a campsite in Mehedeby, south of Gävle, with no running water or bathroom facilities.

The camp 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 three people who made the report are from Bularia and were given promises about coming to Sweden and picking berries. They were told they would get paid, live in an apartment, and get food,” explained Christer Nordström of the Uppsala police to the TT news agency.

“When they arrived, they were given neither an apartment nor food and made to live at a campsite.”

The man has been interrogated by police, but they would not disclose further information.

“I can’t go into any details. We’ll see how it all pans out,” Nordström told the local Upsala Nya Tidning newspaper.

The arrest comes following several days of rising tensions between the berry pickers living at the makeshift camp and local residents, many of whom have complained about the camp.

Police were called to the camp around 2am on Thursday morning after receiving reports that some of the berry pickers living at the camp had been targeted in a rock-throwing attack.

TT/The Local/og

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Stockholmers gather to welcome refugees

Volunteers headed to Stockholm's central train station on Tuesday to welcome refugees with clothes, food, and coffee. One told The Local that some Swedes don't realize how lucky they are to live in such a safe place.

Stockholmers gather to welcome refugees
Stockholmers prepare to greet refugees at the central train station. Photo: TT
Sahar Zamani, 40, has been at Stockholm's central train station since early on Tuesday morning. 
“I heard through Facebook that refugees would be arriving in Stockholm so I didn't waste any time,” she told The Local. 
Together with around a dozen other volunteers, Zamani (pictured below) has already welcomed a handful of refugees who took a cross-country train from Malmö in southern Sweden, where 230 asylum seekers have arrived since Monday afternoon. 
“They were scared, they thought we were police… but we just told them we were here to help and gave them food and drinks,” Zamani said. 

Sahar Zamani said: We cannot close our eyes to this. Photo: TT
It is unclear if any of the refugees arriving in Stockholm were among those those who marched along a Danish motorway on Monday, reportedly chanting “Malmö, Malmö, Malmö” as they earlier attempted to travel to Sweden on foot. They had previously run away from police in southern Denmark to avoid having their fingerprints taken, for fear they would be registered as seeking refuge in Denmark and unable to go on to Sweden, where many said they had family.
Since the weekend, Danish motorists have been arrested for “smuggling” refugees over the border into Sweden, while one Danish woman has described how she helped some sail across the Öresund strait between Denmark and Sweden.
While Sweden has become a top EU destination for refugees by issuing permanent residency to all Syrian asylum seekers, Denmark has sought to reduce the influx by issuing temporary residence permitsdelaying family reunifications and slashing benefits for newly arrived immigrants.

Refugees march along a motorway in Denmark on Monday. Photo: TT
Since arriving on Swedish soil, the latest batch of refugees travelling from Denmark have had an easier passage to Stockholm after rail operator SJ relaxed its rules on checking identity papers and on luggage restrictions, with one spokesperson telling The Local that the company was “showing its humanitarian side”.
Some of the refugees who arrived in the Swedish capital on Tuesday were heading onward to Finland, and volunteers at the station have also helped them find their way on to ferries. 
Sahar Zamani said that she had no intention of leaving the central station in the coming hours, having heard that more refugees would arrive throughout the day.
The group of volunteers – which was mobilised via a Facebook campaign on Tuesday – is armed with clothes, food, coffee, and plenty of bottles of water.
A small Swedish boy among them was photographed by the TT news agency holding up a sign saying 'welcome refugees' in English.

A child holds a sign welcoming refugees in Stockholm. Photo: TT
“There are no words to explain what these people have gone through. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I can't just stand by and watch what's happening and say to them: 'No, you can't come here'. It's a human right, plain and simple,” said Zamani, adding that she hoped that many other Swedes felt the same.
“I want to treat people how I would want to be treated if I was in the same situation. There shouldn't be any holding back, especially when there are children involved. We cannot close our eyes to this. Think that 99.9 percent of Swedes will never have it as bad as these refugees have had it. I am here to do all I can.”

Stockholmers prepare to greet refugees at the central train station. Photo: TT