A number of Vietnamese berry pickers in Särna in central Sweden have begun shooting small birds with catapults and arrows as their situation becomes increasingly precarious, local newspaper Dalarnas Tidningar reports.
Police have warned that tensions among the 300 guest workers risk spiralling out of control as they wait for the barren surrounding forests to yield their harvest of berries.
After two weeks in Sweden the group now lacks food and money, while the berry pickers are each expected to pay 145 kronor per day ($20) for their lodgings in a youth hostel in the village in northern Dalarna. Members of the group have made repeated forays into the woods only to find that the berries have not yet ripened.
The berry pickers also claim that a contract they are being asked to sign if they are to be entitled to a residence permit does not correspond with a contract they signed in Vietnam prior to making their way to Dalarna.
The new contract, which has been reviewed by Dalarnas Tidningar, shows that they are expected to pick 90 kilos of lingonberries, or 50 kilos of blueberries, or 20 kilos of cloudberries per day if they are to be entitled to their wages.
The contract also obliges the berry pickers to pay the equivalent of 16,000 kronor each for costs incurred by their Vietnamese recruitment company for travel, visas and other outlays. The workers are promised a basic monthly wage of 17,730 kronor if they meet the terms of the contract with the opportunity to earn a higher amount if they pick more berries than the stipulated minimum.
The contract is alleged to originate from the recruitment company’s partner berry firm in Sweden, but Dalarnas Tidningar found that the phone number provided was not currently in service.
Police officers who paid a visit to the berry pickers’ camp said the situation risked turning violent if the workers were unable to earn money soon.