The court's presiding judge, Per Grevesmühl, told a press conference that the men's actions were “a form of organized crime”.
Both men, aged 49 and 42, were Bulgarian citizens who brought ten people from their home country to Sweden after promising them work in the construction industry.
But when they arrived in Sweden, they were forced to live in a decrepit industrial state in Örebro county, where the windows were broken and the only heat source was a wood-burning stove in the basement.
Several of the men were illiterate and told police that they felt like prisoners. They were also made to beg for money in order to pay their captors for the journey to Sweden, and had to hand over the money they made.
Now the two Bulgarians have been sentenced to four years and two months in jail for human trafficking.
Hans Swärd, professor of social work at Lund University, noted that the vulnerability of people in a foreign environment is one factor which has made forced begging possible for so long.
“There is resistance and fear of the authorities. Then there is certainly shame about accepting this. You don't turn for help from outside,” he said.
Swärd added that much of the crime affecting vulnerable EU migrants happens in a legal vacuum and that these groups need extra support. He said the sentencing of the pair sent a clear signal.
Per Grevesmühl, the presiding judge, said that the exploitation of vulnerability was central to the judgement.
“Many of these people lived in difficult conditions in their home country, and even when they came here,” he said.
He also said that human trafficking is a crime rarely tried in court, and district prosecutor Jenny Clemedtson said the investigation required several authorities to work together.
“There has been international cooperation, both between police and international organizations working with migration and which helped locate the plaintiffs,” she said.
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