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Bulgarian berry pickers camp out in Stockholm

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Bulgarian berry pickers camp out in Stockholm
17:09 CEST+02:00
Some 200 Bulgarian berry pickers have gathered outside the Bulgarian embassy in central Stockholm after promises of work bore no fruit.

Around 40 of the beleaguered Bulgarians are reported to have camped in a bus parked outside the embassy as staff worked to secure tickets home.

According to Swedish police the berry pickers had been in Jämtland in northern Sweden.

As The Local reported last week a number of Bulgarians had been imported into Sweden on the promise of work during the berry picking season but were then left to fend for themselves in the forests.

Bulgarian embassy staff confirmed that the berry pickers were brought to Sweden by an as yet unidentified person and that they had been forced to survive in trying conditions.

Some of the stranded berry pickers have been able to return home after having been provided tickets by their home towns, but others have been left in the hands of the Stockholm embassy or with the hope of help from family or friends.

The embassy is currently supplying the stranded group with bread and water twice a day and the district council has provided them with a bus.

The Bulgarian embassy said that it has five staff working to assist in the repatriation of the berry pickers.

"We are working hard so that they are able to get home. They are poor people but we hope that friends and relatives in Bulgaria can transfer money to them so that they can get home somehow," said Tatiana Petrova at the embassy.

Petrova however ruled out direct financial assistance from the embassy.

"The embassy has no money we can spend on them. The normal procedure is for money to be sent from Bulgaria," she said.

"But we are doing everything we can to fund it somehow. If we give money to these people, we need to have a guarantee that it would be paid back to the embassy," she added.

A further dozen Bulgarian berry pickers have turned to the social service in Örebro in central Sweden for for and money in order to return home.

The council however referred the matter to the Bulgarian embassy.

According to police it is unclear if any of the 200 people gathered by the embassy are connected to a 43-year-old Bulgarian resident who was arrested on Thursday after allegedly luring other Bulgarians into coming to Sweden with the promise of a salary, a home, and a job.

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