Last Group of Stranded Bulgarian Berrypickers Leaves Sweden

Diplomacy | August 7, 2012, Tuesday // 14:33|  views

Scores of Bulgarians got stranded in Sweden after beeing lured with promises of berry-picking jobs. Photo by bTV

The last group of 41 Bulgarian of berry pickers, who were stranded in Sweden, left Stockholm late Monday evening, the Foreign Ministry reported.

The bus is expected in Sofia Wednesday evening.

The Bulgarian government, represented by the Foreign Ministry and the Bulgarian Embassy in Stockholm, assisted by the Swedish authorities, managed to send back home safely and in the course of 10 days over 560 Bulgarian citizens who went to Sweden with the hope of finding seasonal work.

They were transported on vehicles of the Foreign, Transport, and Defense Ministries, and the "Albena Holidays" tourist company.

Bulgarian officials remind that this has been a one-time help, and all Bulgarian seasonal workers still in Sweden must pay from their own pocket if they decide to return home.

The Ministry reminds and strongly recommends that all Bulgarians, who wish to secure a job abroad, must have signed labor contracts, and be informed in detail about the potential employer.

It was reported on July 22 that some 200 Bulgarian citizens have gathered outside the country's embassy in Stockholm, waiting to be supplied with tickets in order to return home.

The Bulgarian citizens had been lured to Sweden with the promise of work during the berry picking season, but were then left to fend for themselves in the forests, local media informed.

According to the Bulgarian Embassy in Stockholm, the berry pickers were brought to Sweden by a Bulgarian national, and they had been forced to survive in trying conditions.

Some of the berry pickers have been able to return home. However, others were left in the hands of the Stockholm Embassy or with the hope of help from family or friends.

A 43-year-old Bulgarian man was arrested for allegedly luring other Bulgarian citizens into coming to Sweden with the promise of a salary, a home, and a job.

On July 25, the Bulgarian Council of Ministers voted to slate emergency funding for the Bulgarians stranded in Stockholm. The estimated amount is BGN 150 000.

The decision was made after the spokesperson of the Bulgarian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Vessela Cherneva, stated that the Bulgarian Embassy in Sweden will not provide funding for the stranded people. Cherneva stressed Bulgarian embassies never provide money to fellow citizens. She reiterated that the Embassy is currently supplying the stranded group with bread, water, and coffee when needed; has provided them with a bus to sleep in, and with a portable WC.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Nikolay Mladenov, underlined that the funding is a one-time decision that should not be used for creating a precedent.

He explained the move with the large number of Bulgarians in distress in Sweden, and the growing social tensions in some groups there, thus the need of emergency evacuation.

According to the Minister, those who were gathered in front of the Bulgarian Embassy in Stockholm were only part of the entire group, while there are others across Sweden, bringing the total to several hundred Bulgarians in need of assistance.

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Tags: Council of Ministers, Foreign Affairs Minister, Nikolay Mladenov, spokesperson, Foreign Ministry, Vessela Cherneva, embassy, Stockholm, Sweden, Bulgarian citizens, berry pickers, funds, funding, evacuation


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