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Thai Workers Enticed to Berry Pick in Sweden Left With Huge Debts

Sunday, July 14, 2013
PHUKET: Thais who go to Sweden to work as berry-pickers are being mistreated and sometimes return with debts they have to pay for the rest of their lives, according to a Swedish newspaper report.

The organisation Thai Labor Campaign confirms that the use of Thai laborers in Sweden is a form of human trafficking, 'Aftonbladet' says.

The Thai Government encourages people to work abroad, and authorities cooperate closely with unscrupulous recruitment agencies, says the report.

''Sweden is number two on our blacklist of countries where Thai guest workers have big problems. Israel is on top and Libya comes third,'' says Patchanee Kumnak, Project Manager at the TLC.

Only four out of every 10 Thai berry pickers achieve a profit after months of hard work and some among the rest find themselves saddled with heavy debts.

About 6000 Thais are recruit to pick berries in Sweden each year. Between 75,000 and 100,000 Thais go abroad to work annually, writes the author, Jan Kellerman.

Recruiters from Swedish agencies visit the Isarn region of Thailand, where many people are subsistence rice farmers, and entice them to sign on with promises while collecting $1100 themselves for each signature.

Accommodation, transport and food has to be paid by the pickers and it can prove to be an astronomical sum for a Thai rice farmer - especially as some employers default on paying them salaries.

Comments

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In my travels around parts of Isan, it is noticeable that there are very few young people working in the rice paddy fields as they are lured either to jobs in the cities or jobs abroad. Young people simply do not want to do the back breaking manual work involved in various types of farming.

A few days ago on a very interesting BBC business report program, it was stated that this is becoming a world wide problem (for example, the average age of a farmer in the US is an astonishing 58 years old - similar in other western countries).

People don't like the concept of battery farming for eggs & poultry & similar modern methods for producing milk & meat, where the animals never see the light of day.

But with the world population ever growing, where is our food going to come from in the not so distant future?

Posted by Logic on July 14, 2013 14:44

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It's shamefull to exploit people in that way. But - all of you (thai people) reading this, spread the Word: There are strict laws in Sweden, protecting the right of workers. Rip off contracts are worthless, one is guaranteed a minimum wage, including Healthcare! If someone plans to go to Sweden and is feeling cheated: speak to the first person you meet, they will help you. The shady persons involved in scams are unliked by ordinary Swedes and the issue is widely known.

Posted by Swede from Malmo on July 14, 2013 20:21

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This kind of issue with people being cheated by recruitment companies is coming up in the media several times each year so people should be aware of it already, however the temptation of the presented opportunities is probably larger than common sense.
The recruitment companies referred to here as "Swedish"are unnamed and I assume that they are indeed thai companies run by thai people. The recruitment business is very lucrative for these thai companies as they are the ones that collect the fees and make promises to the people that they send abroad...these companies should be investigated and have their scams exposed. Instead of that the countries where their customers end up, in this case Sweden. end up looking bad whilst the real culprits in Thailand walk free and continue their shady business.

Posted by Sailor on July 15, 2013 11:52

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I was recently looking into getting a visa for berry picking in Finland, right next door to Sweden and the Finnish embassy has very strict guidelines in place what the prospective companies have to provide and adhere to in order to be able to even apply for a visa on behalf of a prospective employee.

Only companies certified by the Finnish embassies can apply for such visas.

They are subjected to thorough background checks and need to provide all required information months before the actual application process can start.

Among others they are required to guarantee a legal minimum income to the workers after all expenses are deducted, even if it means the employer ends up losing money.

The application form for the employers to enroll in this program is only available in Finnish but I could translate it if it would be of interest to someone.

I can only conclude that for some reason Sweden does not have same safeguards in place. If they did, these recruitment agencies, which as Sailor suggested are most likely Thai, would never be able to run such scams.

The Finnish Employment office also provides extensive information for people planning to work in Finland. The English language brochure can be found here

http://www.mol.fi/mol/en/99_pdf/en/92_brochures/workinginfinland.pdf

All Scandinavian Employment offices provide their complete website information not only in English but in several other languages too.

Posted by ThaiMike on July 15, 2013 13:25

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Send over the taxi/tuk tuk drivers and all others who rip off tourists and people. Have them work and get ripped off.

Posted by Nicke on July 16, 2013 10:26


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