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


Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.