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Elderly Swedes scared by 'slave' Irish traders

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Elderly Swedes scared by 'slave' Irish traders
A camp in Örebro where the tradesmen are thought to be staying. Photo: NA/Oskar Schriever-Abeln
14:43 CEST+02:00
Police are investigating a group of Irish handymen believed to be preying on pensioners in Örebro in central Sweden and potentially under pressure from "slave" ringmasters themselves.
At least two handymen are camping in the city and tempting the elderly to use their cheap labour, according to police.
 
Police chief Ted Esplund confirmed initial reports of the scam in regional newspaper Nerikes Allehanda (NA) to The Local on Wednesday.
 
Esplund said that the rogue tradesmen were offering services in a "very aggressive" way in two areas of Örebro. He said police were investigating one case of fraud and had had several other calls from people who had been visited by the handymen.
 
"For a number of years we get problems each spring with rogue traders arriving in Sweden. They offer various types of work to be done for private households...They are very aggressive which makes it hard to say no for the persons who get the offer," he explained.
 
He added that many pensioners could not resist the bargain deals, but warned Swedes against falling for the low prices, telling them to think carefully about whether the tradesmen were operating on the black market and that they risked jobs being of a low quality or not completed at all.
 
"The presence of the rogue traders in the neighbourhood increases the feeling of unsafety for many people, mainly older people...We also suspect that the workers don't get much of the money from the works carried out. They work under some kind of threats and pressure, almost like a new type of slavery," he added.
 
Under a Swedish law introduced in 2008, residents can get a 50 percent tax deduction for repairs, maintenance, conversion or extension work carried out on their homes, after declaring this on their annual tax forms. Esplund said that this meant that those seeking these kinds of services could end up paying less by going through official channels, rather than by paying in cash for rogue traders offering low up-front cash prices.
 
He added to NA that police were taking the issue "very seriously" and wanted to make sure people in the area felt "secure".
 
However, he said that it would be very difficult to force the Irish workers – who are EU citizens – to leave Örebro.
 
Allemansrätten – the Swedish freedom to roam – means that it is possible to camp in tents or in a van practically anywhere in the Nordic nation, as long as you are respectful of the country's nature.
 
"We have our common rights and as long as there is no camping ban or you're staying on private land, you can be here...it is very seldom we evict someone," he told NA.
 
This article originally referred to the rogue tradesmen as British. Swedish police have since confirmed to The Local that the majority of them are believed to be Irish.
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