Bulgarian berry pickers camping near Tönnebro. Photo: Pernilla Wahlman / SCANPIX
Bulgarian berry pickers leaving Sweden

Embassy orders more busses for stranded berry pickers

Around 150 Bulgarian berry pickers departed Sweden in busses leaving from the Bulgarian embassy Wednesday, and they are expected to arrive back home sometime late Friday night. However, more are likely to want to return home.

The Bulgarian embassy has so far ordered two big busses and six mini-busses to come to Stockholm later in the weekend to take more workers home.

"The problem is that we don't know how many berry pickers throughout Sweden want to go home," Bulgaria's ambassador Svetlan Stoev told news agency TT, adding that he feared there would not be enough seats for everyone.

"It's a huge tragedy," EU minister Birgitta Ohlsson of the Liberals tells TT. "I really empathize with these people from Bulgaria who've been lured here under false premises. It's extremely sad."

Several of the municipalities who have had problems related to the berry pickers have demanded that the issue be raised to the EU level. Ohlsson agrees in part, and hopes that a plan from the EU commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, to combat human trafficking will be of use.

"To make sure people don't get tricked and wind up in the hands of criminals, there have to be given better information" says Ohlsson. "Many people don't know how things work in Sweden when they come here. In Sweden, the responsibility lies with the unions and the employers."

Last week, a Bulgarian man was remanded in custody by the Uppsala district court for human trafficking. Three Bulgarians accused him of luring them to Sweden with false promises about making money picking berries in the forests.

There has been concern about hundreds of Bulgarians who have come to Sweden to pick berries this summer. Many turned to the embassy for help, saying they were stranded here after being more or less dumped in the forests under very poor conditions by the people who brought them here.

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