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March against human trafficking in the Czech forests

Prague, 27.3.2011 14:27, (ROMEA)

The Initiative for the Rights of Migrants and the No Racism! Initiative in the Czech Republic are holding a march today in support of migrant loggers. Who are they? A group of almost 600 foreigners who were allegedly exploited while working in the forests last year. NGOs are criticizing the Czech authorities for their inertia in eliminating what the NGOs say is slave labor. They want to draw attention to the case of workers from Vietnam and other countries who worked in the Czech forests without being paid the promised wage. Today's parade will culminate in an event called "Logger Week".

The case of workers from Romania, Slovakia and Vietnam received significant attention not long ago. The workers were specifically employed on land managed by the state-owned forest enterprise Lesy ČR and the Krkonoš National Park (Krkonošský národní park - KRNAP). The foreigners claim they worked between 10 and 12 hours a day and received only some of their promised pay. Some of them also slept crammed together in small rooms. The management also allegedly threatened them. Police are investigating.

Personnel agencies brokered the work but allegedly did not pay the workers and let them go hungry. Agency representatives, however, consider the case to be a plot and primarily an effort by NGOs to get grants for their activities from international foundations.

The agencies supplied workers to the company Less & Forest, which was granted a public tender by the state-owned forests and KRNAP for logging. Activists have also identified Affumicata, Wood Servis Praha and PBM Union Jobs as companies that offered the workers salaries of between CZK 10 000 and CZK 20 000 per month for logging and other forestry work between 2009 and 2010. Both state organizations have distanced themselves from the case, claiming that the workers are the responsibility of the firms that supplied the labor force.

The rally is at 15:00 CET today in front of the Czech Agriculture Ministry in Prague (Těšnov). The march will head across Švermův Bridge and the Letná Gardens to the Czech Interior Ministry. The predicted end of the march is at 18:00.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, Czech Television 24, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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