After reports of exploited berry-pickers from southeast Asia in previous years, the Swedish authorities have tightened the rules for the companies using their services. And this year the immigration agency has approved more than 5000 permits for foreign berry-pickers, nearly twice as many as last year. But they are working with fewer than usual berries in the Swedish forests this summer.
However. this year’s controversy is over around 500 EU citizens, mostly from Bulgaria, who are camping in a forest in the province of Uppland, north of Stockholm. Based on last year’s experience, the company that manages the forest only expected around one-tenth as many people.
Besides the impact on the forest, where the berry-pickers are said to be setting fires and cutting down trees, local residents are up in arms as well. They accuse the berry-pickers of going through their trash cans looking for food, stealing diesel fuel, and petty theft in local shops. Wednesday night police were called in to stop some local residents from throwing stones at the berry-pickers.
The forestry company has asked the authorities to clear the campsites. Charlotte Broden from Stora Enso, the company that manages the forests told Radio Sweden,
"The damages they have caused to the forests are totally against the rights of public access."
Broden says she does not know where the berry-pickers can be relocated to.
"They can turn to the public camping sites that are available to everyone", she said.
Arrest for human trafficking
Swedish Radio News reports that a man has been arrested following a police complaint from three of the berry-pickers. He is accused of human trafficking.