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Two men sentenced in Sweden for human trafficking

Two men were sentenced to more than four years in jail on Monday for human trafficking, after they brought ten people to Sweden with the promise of employment, then kept them in "slave-like" conditions and forced them to beg for money.

Two men sentenced in Sweden for human trafficking
Presiding judge Per Grevesmühl speaks to press after the verdict. Photo: Pavel Koubek / TT

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.

READ ALSO: Journalist facing trial is 'confident' he was right to help refugee boy

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.

READ ALSO: Sweden jails Bulgarians for begging ring

CRIME

Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 

READ ALSO: 

More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

 
The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.” 
 
 
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