Guest workers from Cameroon have been systematically exploited in the reforestation industry in Sweden. SVT’s current affairs program “Mission: Investigate” reveals the conditions the Cameroonians worked under, with extremely low salaries, illegal fees and threats from the employer.
A couple of years ago a rumor spread in some villages in Cameroon in West Africa, that there was big money to be made by planting forests in Sweden. And indeed a written offer of six months job existed, with fixed working hours and fixed salary, signed by the Swedish union and the employer.
The monthly salary offered was 18.500 SEK (about 2.800 USD). But once in Sweden the deal was a totally different one - now the guest workers were told that they would be paid by the number of trees they planted.
Despite hard toil, with up to ten hour work days six days a week, it was impossible for the Cameroonians to earn the money they were originally promised. The money they earned, for some as little as 6.000 SEK a month, was not even enough to cover for the loans they had taken to make the trip to Sweden.
The Swedish employer, Niklas Gotthardsson, also put on various charges for the guest workers. For instance each Cameroonian had to pay 6.000 SEK as a ”registration fee” directly to Gotthardsson’s personal bank account.
The Swedish forest workers union are extremely critical to the exploitation of the Cameroonians by Niklas Gotthardsson and his company. “Yes, it’s just terrible. It's pure job trafficking we’re talking about here” says one spokesman for the union.
Six months after the end of the tree planting season most of the Cameroonians are still in Sweden. They are paperless and without housing, money and jobs. The Swedish police have now launched a criminal investigation against Niklas Gotthardsson and his company.
Reporters: Ali Fegan & Lars-Göran Svensson.