Bulgarian berry pickers camp out in Stockholm

Some 200 Bulgarian berry pickers have gathered outside the Bulgarian embassy in central Stockholm after promises of work bore no fruit.

Bulgarian berry pickers camp out in Stockholm

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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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