Germany, new mecca for cash-strapped eastern Europeans

[Daciana Antonescu, EU News Contributor]

Spiegel Online International: It seems that, in times of the global financial crisis, ‘wealthy Germany‘ has become not only the final destination for many disadvantaged fortune-seekers from the less affluent east and south, but also a favoured destination for desperate eastern Europeans whose counties are practically bankrupt states.

Because of that, the trade for human trafficking is Germany is going through the roof as traders flood the country with cheap work forces from Bulgaria, Romania and other ‘new member states’ made up of those who are so desperate to get any kind of work. For them, the prospect of as little as 3 EUR per hour (tax and social insurance free) and a place to sleep in a crowded warehouse, or cellar, is a vision from heaven itself.

The Outskirts of the EU

Since 2007 when Bulgaria was accepted in the European Union, the number of Bulgarians residing  in Germany is estimated to be 36,000, although no one really knows the true figure. Thousands and thousands are there, unknown and unaccounted for, living on less than EUR15 a day and having their children around as still cheaper workers.

The flow of labour from the eastern Europe is intense because, being citizens of the European Union, Bulgarians and other eastern European citizens, whose countries are in the EU, can enter any EU state without a visa.  Many of the workers have no choice.  “If the children weren’t in Germany we would starve,” says one old woman from Bulgarian countryside as her son leaves for Germany. The majority of them can afford to send home no more than around EUR 200 a month, however, in Bulgaria it is the size of the average salary and their parents need it to pay their debts and for food.

Sinan Kemal’s – a Bulgarian slave labourer in Germany

Sinan Kemal, 27, has worked in Germany for four years. His ‘luck story’ is quite different from what many prospective immigrants would like to think. For example, he had to pay  EUR150 a month for a bed which comprised a dirty mattress at an acquaintance’s house. At some time, he had worked at a warehouse under the surveillance of Turkish managers and remembers that each time he had slowed down in his task of packing boxes, he had got hit in the face by one of the managers. He reflects:  “You’re an EU citizen, but you just happen to be born in the wrong country. But EUR3 an hour is good, compared with going hungry in Bulgaria.”

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