human trafficking

No solution for Bulgarian berry pickers

Embassy officials from Bulgaria, representatives from the local council and local police are meeting in the town of Söderhamn Tuesday to discuss the situation of hundreds of Bulgarian berry pickers who say they were stranded here after being more or less dumped in the forests under very poor conditions by the people who brought them to Sweden.

The Bulgarians had set up camp in the village of Mehedeby, with no running water or latrine facilities.

They now want help to get home to Bulgaria.

But no immediate solution was found at the meeting, with embassy officials saying it's not their responsibility to get the berry pickers back to Bulgaria. Local council officials add it's not their responsibility either.

Meanwhile another hundred eastern European berry pickers have surfaced close to the village of Svabensverk on the boundary between Hälsingland and Dalarna, TT reports.

They told police they had been dumped there by a truck and had nowhere to go.

A local church provided them with food and shelter. Locals in the village described the situation as "desperate".

"They were hungry and hadn't eaten for days. They want to get in touch with the embassy", Maria Bergström, a resident of Svabensverk, told Swedish Radio.

Swedish Television reports that some 30 Bulgarians have decided to leave Svabensverk for Stockholm on foot. They hope to be able to get home to Bulgaria from there.

Irreputable berry companies have been importing cheap berry picking labour from eastern Europe, after their previous source of workers, south east Asia, was closed to them following new migration laws. As Bulgaria is a member of the EU, no such restrictions can be placed on their citizens.

One man, himself a Bulgarian, was remanded in custody by an Uppsala court Monday, accused of human trafficking. Three countrymen say he lured them to Sweden with false promises about making money picking berries in the forests.