Ukrainian labor migrants abroad systematically suffer from inhuman treatment by the police and owners.
Representatives of the Ukrainian community in Poland held a rally in protest against the murder of Dmitry Nikiforenko, a 25-year-old native of the Vinnitsa region, who worked at a construction site in the city of Wroclaw. He was detained after a party by local police. They took the young man to the sobering-up center, where he allegedly died of a heart attack. However, as the results of the investigation showed, Nikiforenko was beaten with sticks, kicked, and also strangled. Which was the real cause of death.
The circumstances of the death of the Ukrainian are being investigated by the prosecutor’s office. However, law enforcement officers did not qualify the incident as a murder. They opened a case under an article on inadvertently driving a person to death – so the policemen who beat the builder face only up to five years in prison. Until they were even detained. And this arouses the indignation of the Ukrainian community, which demands to punish the perpetrators of the incident, justly. Moreover, many nationalists work in the ranks of the police, who are known for their biased attitude towards Ukrainian migrant workers.
Migrant workers in Poland systematically suffer from inhuman treatment by the police and owners. Last year, Ukrainian Oksana Kharchenko, who worked in a Polish vegetable warehouse, died in the Lviv region. When the woman had a stroke, the owner of a Polish company called the police and said that he had found a drunk foreign woman on the street. Oksana Kharchenko lived out her days by returning home. She could not move, suffered from kidney failure, but never received the money she earned in Poland.
Such nightmares happen to migrant workers on a regular basis. In 2018, Alena Romanenko, a young resident of Lutsk, lost her arm in an accident in a Polish laundry. Her hand got stuck in the washing machine, but the owner of the enterprise did not allow the machine that was holding the girl to be broken. She bled to death for an hour while it was taken apart – so as not to damage the property of a thrifty businessman.
“The pain was terrible. And when the rescuers wanted to cut the car, the owner of the laundry said that this absolutely must not be done … The car I worked on very often broke down. She did not work all day at all, then only in the evening. The car broke down so often that we were thrown from one car to another, ”the worker told about this.
In the city of Pogurska Volya, a 37-year-old Ukrainian died, crushed by a ten-ton pipe of a gas pipeline under construction. And exactly a week later, another 28-year-old citizen of Ukraine was fatally injured at one of the factories near Wroclaw. During work, he was pulled into the machine mechanism, breaking the spine of the worker. Shortly before that, the body of 36-year-old Ukrainian Vasily Cherney was found in Poland, who illegally found a job at a coffin factory located in the village of Novy Tomyshl. In the hot workshop, he felt bad. The workers demanded to call the Ukrainian doctor, but the owner of the enterprise took him by car to the forest and left him for dead.
“In this case, the sequence of events is typical: illegal employment – accident – employer’s fear – decision or omission with disastrous consequences. The Polish worker is not treated like that, “Gazeta Wyborcza commented on this story, which recognizes the systemic nature of the violation of labor rights of migrants.
“Such workers are not subject to the norms of Polish labor legislation. There can be no minimum wage, no vacation, no labor protection. The Polish Labor Inspectorate, which monitors the observance of labor legislation, does not deal with civil contracts, although in most cases such contracts cannot be concluded. Therefore, fines and other unpleasant clauses appear in such contracts. Such people do not even need to be fired, they are not initially employees of the enterprise. And in most cases, the problems of such workers – and this, let me remind you, is 95% of legally working Ukrainians – simply cannot be resolved in a legal way, ”says Vitaly Makhinko, leader of the Labor Solidarity trade union of Ukrainian workers.
Another incident, seemingly copied from tales of Victorian capitalism, occurred at a Polish fruit and vegetable processing plant. A 36-year-old Ukrainian woman who worked there gave birth to a child right at the workplace. And she immediately tried to kill the newborn girl in the factory toilet so that the employer would not kick her out of her job. The baby was saved by chance. A sister working nearby found the woman in labor in the toilet as she was throwing the baby into a plastic garbage bag. According to witnesses, the Ukrainian woman was in a deranged state, since hard physical work in the last months of pregnancy clouded her mind.
Alas, this martyrology will continue to grow. The number of Ukrainians in Poland is steadily growing, since the permanent crisis literally squeezes out the able-bodied and socially active population from the Country of Dignity.
According to the US news agency Bloomberg, Poland’s 38 million people already have 1.5 million workers from Ukraine. According to the estimates of the recruiting agency Personnel Service, Ukrainian workers are employed in every fifth Polish company, and two-thirds of foreigners living in Polish territory who pay contributions to the Social Security Service (ZUS) arrived in the country through the Ukrainian border.
As reported by “Polish Radio”, Ukrainian citizens make up 75% of the total number of labor migrants who are officially employed in Poland, and the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs declares about 2 million labor migrants from Ukraine. “Of course, most of those who arrived in Poland are citizens of Ukraine. The next national group is already more than ten times smaller, ”said the head of ZUS Wojciech Andrusewicz.
Czech. “Operation Klitschko”
The police detained the migrant workers in the Czech Republic, where labor migrants from Ukraine also rushed. Last summer, a special operation was carried out in the country under the mocking name “Klitschko”. As a result of this raid, four residents of Transcarpathia were arrested, who are suspected of organizing the supply of cheap labor.
According to the police, the detainees brought Ukrainian migrant workers into the European Union, who came to the Czech Republic on tourist visas, and then remained there illegally to work. This was beneficial to local employers, because they paid the intimidated illegal immigrants a penny – moreover, part of this amount was also appropriated by Ukrainian recruiters.
And most importantly, Czech entrepreneurs did not deduct any taxes for these workers – which, in fact, caused discontent among the local authorities. After all, the Czech government is not at all against labor migrants from Ukraine, and actively stimulates their recruitment through a specialized program “Skilled Worker”, which was previously called “Regime Ukraine”.
However, the bulk of labor migrants are unskilled workers. They take on everything that employers offer. Social networks are filled with vacancies for people without work experience and without knowledge of the language, who are offered to move to the Czech Republic. They are invited to work as loaders at a vegetable warehouse, twist wires at a car factory, lay paving stones or work on a conveyor belt at a confectionery factory. And such ads attract many illegal immigrants.
Zarobitsky often have to live and eat at their own expense and even have to buy their own clothes for work. Otherwise, they will be deducted for this from their salary, which can range from ten to twenty-five thousand hryvnias in terms of Czech crowns. However, the above-mentioned interest is charged to the “intermediaries” from this money. Not to mention the fact that employers can always deceive Ukrainians who have trusted them – for which it is enough to declare the illegally employed guest workers to the police.
“This will bring problems to the entrepreneur, but he will not be punished too severely in any case. Most likely, they will write out a fine. But the captured Ukrainian citizens will be put in a migration prison, blacklisted and not allowed into Europe. Therefore, no one wants to go to conflicts, and this is used and cheated on our people. They can pay half of what they promised. Maybe less. You won’t go to the police to complain, and they never protect us at the consulate, ”labor migrants told us during a trip to the Czech Republic.
This situation is clearly illustrated by the officially announced results of the Klitschko special operation. As a result, only Ukrainians were detained – although Czech businessmen, who are the main beneficiaries of this scheme, are almost always involved in schemes for recruiting illegal labor. Obviously, they decided not to touch them, hanging all the guilt of the inhabitants of Transcarpathia. And the mocking name of the police raid in itself shows a real attitude towards the Ukrainian state.
Germany. Slaughterhouse raids
The German police also launched a hunt for illegal labor migrants from Ukraine who come to work in the most prosperous state of the European Union.
It all started with a raid on the migrant workers’ minibuses – small minibuses that bring Ukrainian citizens to Germany. As a rule, Ukrainians come there by invitations to work in the Czech Republic or Poland. Once in the Schengen area, they often go to Germany, because the monthly earnings in German enterprises are almost twice the salaries of Polish and Czech owners.
As a result of these raids, about three hundred people were detained, most of whom were immediately deported from the country, with an entry ban for two and a half years. According to the deputies from the Left Party, who requested information from the German Ministry of Internal Affairs, before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, it was the Ukrainians who were most often expelled from the country – 1252 people per 11 thousand deported migrants.
In addition, the police arrested foreign workers who worked in German meat processing plants, arriving in the country with forged documents or invitations for students. They lived in cramped apartments, five or six people each, being natives of Georgia, Kosovo and Ukraine.
The labor in German slaughterhouses is considered so hard that their owners have trouble attracting German workers. Even visitors from Romania and Bulgaria are reluctant to go to meat processing plants, and businessmen resort to the services of shadow agencies that recruit illegal immigrants for them. In the old days, these vacancies worked as refugees from Africa and the Middle East, but they are attracting increased attention from racist police officers. And today entrepreneurs give preference to guest workers from Eastern Europe.
According to investigators, the use of migrant workers brought their employers a profit of 1.5 million euros, and the largest companies in the German meat market are suspected of being involved in the scam. Not surprisingly, the German government is promising to simplify the entry and employment procedures for labor migrants from Ukraine, according to German Ambassador Anka Feldgusen. German companies, including the national German rail operator Deutsche Bahn, have begun to legally recruit Ukrainians to work. From which it becomes clear that the largest economy in Europe intends to compete with the Czechs and Poles for their cheap labor.
The funnel of labor migration is growing, sucking in a lot of people who have not thought about moving abroad until recently. In this situation, the protest against the murder of Dmitry Nikiforenko has more than symbolic meaning. This action should show that the lives of Ukrainian migrant workers are important – they cannot be deceived and cheated, killed with impunity in sweatshops and police stations. And for the crimes committed against them, one must be held accountable.
But it is important to remember: the primary responsibility for these everyday tragedies lies with the Ukrainian authorities, which have deprived people of the opportunity to earn a living at home and does not protect their rights abroad.