Ukrainian labor migrants become victims of swindled job offer

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

Almost half of Ukrainians, who came to Poland, are working there illegally,
18:30, 23 October 2018

Open source

Poland is one of the most popular countries among Ukrainian labor migrants. Almost half of Ukrainians, who came to Poland, are working there illegally, so they are not protected at all. “An average Ukrainian worker, no matter whether he has a working visa to Poland or a contract, as a rule, has no opportunity to protect his rights and himself,” Vitaliy Makhinko, head of the Labor Solidarity trade union, claimed.

Related: Poles' attitude to Ukrainian labor migrants has changed

Instead of earning money, people are often left with no means of livelihood, and they cannot go back to Ukraine. "We are now dealing with the case of a guy who was invited to Poland by his longtime acquaintance. He worked in a suburb of Warsaw for Uber taxi. The guy came by non-visa travel regime (for 90 days). He worked for 2 months. He was provided with housing and a car. He was told that he owed 1,500 zlotys. They took his passport from him and told him to work. As a result, he does not have a passport now, and he cannot return to Ukraine, while his stay permit expires. The embassy told that it might issue him a special document to bring him home, but he needed to pay money for it, and he did not have any money. He had no place to live and had to spend the night in a car. Now he has been provided with housing and the International Organization for Migration has bought the products for him. We have initiated a call to the police,” Makhinko told.

Despite the fact that the trade union was forced to close its hotlines in Poland (there were so many requests that employees were not able to help everyone), people still find contacts, and up to a dozen appeals are recorded every day. First of all, those who joined the union in Ukraine receive help before leaving for Poland.

According to Makhinko, one of the most common violations is that Polish employers do not pay the last salary to a person. The most horrible situation is observed in agriculture sphere. “The members of our union are not engaged in such jobs, and we do not advise anyone. In most cases, people have to live in villages in terrible conditions. Often they are forced to live in barracks, where dozens of people have one shower, and outdoor cesspool toilet. And, for example, if you are engaged in a strawberry harvest and it starts to rain, and you sit doing nothing, spending the money you've already earned."

Related: How much Ukraine loses from labor migration?

There are almost no companies in Poland that normally work with Ukrainians (only two Polish trade unions deal with the issues of Ukrainian labor migrants – mentioned Labor Solidarity and Labor Imitative or Inicjatywa Pracownicza –Ed.).

“The majority of Poles who hire Ukrainians have their own coordinators. We call them supervisors. And you know, Ukrainians sometimes, are ruder with our compatriots than the Poles," the head of the Labor Solidarity claims.

If a person is indignant or complaining about something, they can simply throw him or her on the street. Tens of thousands of labor migrants from Ukraine are facing this problem. In the near future, Labor Solidarity union will raise this issue.

You are not a person, you are a shadow

To find a job in those European countries where wages and living standards are higher than in Poland, the labor migrant needs special education and knowledge of English. Far from all of the workers living in it can boast of this. For this reason, their fate is the illegal helpless life.

“Norway is not Poland. Here, like in Finland, Holland, Belgium, high-paying jobs require qualifications confirming education, English knowledge. Several thousand Ukrainians officially work in Norway. Those who do not have education, does not want to learn the language, can only rely on illegal employment or seasonal work. There are a lot of such people in Norway. Mostly they work on construction sites or farms (getting 10-12 euros per hour) ", said Denys Voronenkov, an expert on labor migration to Norway. At the same time, the phenomenon of Ukrainian illegal immigrants in Norway is a really very large-scale phenomenon, and they have a very hard time.

According to the expert, “even if you think that you are legally employed, the local labor inspectorate might not think so. The expert says that employers who hire illegal workers for work are often underpaid.” I don’t know the stories so that they don’t pay at all, but underpayment stories are all very usual. In Norway, a working week is 37.5 hours. 5 days for 7.5 hours (half-hour break is not paid). As a result, it is 156 hours per month. So, often the employer concludes an agreement with the workers, for example, for 3,000 euros for 156 hours, and he has to work for 200 hours, but for the same money. A person who initially agreed to work for 2500 euros per month (for 156 hours) asked me to help, but in reality, he worked all 250 hours. But, despite 100 hours of overtime, he received all the same 2,500 euros, not a cent more. I would advise Ukrainians who work abroad to keep their time sheet,” Denys Voronenkov suggests.

Related: Labor migration may be beneficial for Ukraine

Revenge is one of the things the offended labor migrant can do. For example, he can call the labor inspectorate. Fines in Norway are very high and can reach tens of thousands of euros. But! After such a call, an illegal labor migrant will be deported with a ban on entry into the countries of the Schengen zone.

Many employers in the EU do not like Ukrainians because they can run away. At the same time, unscrupulous employers do not mind to make good money on visitors. On the other hand, when working in Norway you can be sure that you will not be settled in a barrack, as in Poland.

Employment agencies try to benefit from the Ukrainians, who want to get a job abroad, so labor migrant needs to be prepared for it. "As a rule, they charge at least 500-2000 euros for their services and then disappear or return the money. You need to be very careful. Contact only those agencies that have a license. Never send them money using Western Union or Money Gram: as a rule, in 95% of cases, it is fool's bargain,” Voronenkov warns.

Russian prison instead of labor migration

Despite the large-scale flow of illegal labor migrants from Ukraine to the EU countries, quite a few people are still leaving for Russia.

Related: Labor migrants transfer almost $ 10 billion a year to Ukraine

Unlike the EU, there is no language barrier and problems with understanding the local mentality here, and labor migrant does not need to prove his education. Highly qualified and educated personnel from Ukraine are highly demanded in Russia.

Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is now working on the issue of those Ukrainians, who, having gone to work in Russia, were imprisoned. Lawyer Yevgeny Chekarev, the lawyer at the Center for Strategic Affairs of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union for Human Rights, told that since the second half of 2013 until recently, Russian advertising with a high salary appear in almost all large Ukrainian cities.

"People were offered courier jobs. Those who agreed to work were given money so that they could go to Moscow, and there they were given the task to rent an apartment in a Russian city - Krasnodar, Smolensk, Arkhangelsk or Siberia. They received tasks to deliver the goods to a certain point. After a while, people understood that they were, in fact, transporting drugs. They called the employer and said that they refused to do this job. These kinds of drugs are prohibited in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation. After the call, people were found by the police and put behind the bars. They faced from  4 to 20 years of imprisonment for such activities. Real terms range from 3.5 years to 20. Now, many of them are serving their sentences. Russian judges did not take into account their arguments that they were recruited and they became victims of human trafficking," Eugene Chekarev, a lawyer at Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union claimed, specifying that currently 273 names of people who became trapped in such a scheme is known. “These are those who asked for help from the Helsinki Human Rights Union. But, according to unconfirmed reports, there are at least 2,000 such people,” said the lawyer.

Related: Being guest worker: How dangerous is labor migration for Ukraine?

Chekarev added that a part of the recruiters who were located in Ukraine (4 people), a criminal case has been already opened. The investigation and the materials have been submitted to Russian Solomensky court. Also, another criminal case is investigated by Ukraine’s National Police.

If these recruiters are held criminally liable in Ukraine, this may facilitate the proof of the fact that people have become victims of trafficking.

"Both the Russian Federation and Ukraine ratified the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. That is, Russia and Ukraine can exchange their convicts. To do this, they can apply to the Ministry of Justice of Russia or Ukraine. At the moment we know about 32 persons who were transferred and about 15 persons whom the Russian courts refused to transfer. The fate of the rest is now under consideration," the lawyer specified.

Related: We should reduce labor migration from Ukraine, and we can do it

He also noted that "there is a problem." "In accordance with the procedure after a person requests a transfer, the court of Ukraine shall recognize the sentence of the Russian court. The Ukrainian court must qualify the crime committed under the Criminal Code of Ukraine and impose a punishment in accordance with the legislation of Ukraine. Then the decision is passed to Russia, after which the Russian court recognizes the decision of the court of Ukraine. But the limits of the sentences in Ukraine and Russia are different. Therefore, there are cases when the court of Ukraine passes a softer punishment than the Russian court does. For example, Russia gave 15 years, and Ukraine sentenced to some 12 years. And in such cases, the Russian courts deny transferring the convicts, referring to the fact that the sentence was reduced unfairly. It is very important that the Ukrainian courts take this moment into account," Chekarev summarized.

* * *

Almost all the experts with whom spoke, agreed that the safest way to find work is to do it in Ukraine, where a  citizen at least has the opportunities and tools to defend his rights. Yes, finding a high-paying job in the country is not that easy today. But for those who are ready to work on themselves, master new specialties, get an education, the doors of large domestic companies will be always opened.

Related: How Ukrainian labor migrants influence the currency market of Ukraine

And even less money is sometimes better than living in a street of a European city without a shelter and passport, living in constant fear of deportation, with a feeling that you are not a person, but a shadow.


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