From Romania to Strängnäs: A story about beggars, slave wages and Swedish naivety


CROVU-STRÄNGNÄS

They came all the way here to beg. But ended up working cash-in-hand, for slave wages – a plan that was organised by the Swedish residents of a town in Sörmland.

How did that happen?

The story was only uncovered by accident. We’re driving through the Romanian countryside when we catch sight of a Ford Galaxy with Swedish plates parked on a farm.

“Sweden, yes! We came home a week ago.”

Mother-of-four Cristina Gaman, 33, opens the red wooden gate and invites us into her house. She’s boiling a couple of fish on the gas stove. The bedroom and living room are cosy, with rugs and tablecloths. There’s a fridge and cable TV. Water is on tap outside but hasn’t been plumbed into the house.

Cristina and her husband have been in Strängnäs and Mariefred. They drove home to the village of Crovu in the Ford they bought in Sweden for 5,000 Swedish kronor.

Marian previously had a full-time job in a factory in Crovu but it was closed down when the financial crisis hit Romania.

Their daughters Catalina, 9, and Sara, 13, are folding clothes on the floor beside the tiled stove. The youngest child, Daria, 2, is running around among the piles of clothes on her short legs.

Cristina tells us that her husband, Marian Gaman, 36, and son Daniel, 14, are out working. They’re doing casual work in the village. Today, they’re chopping wood.

This makes us wonder: Why did they travel to Sweden to beg if they have a house and job here?

Cristina doesn’t take offence, explaining instead the reality of their life in Romania.

Marian previously had a full-time job in a factory in Crovu but it was closed down when the financial crisis hit Romania. Since then it’s been more difficult to find employment, and wages have fallen.

Cristina Gaman with the youngest family member, Daria. The family lives in a simple, yet comfy house in Crovu.
  • Cristina Gaman with the youngest family member, Daria. The family lives in a simple, yet comfy house in Crovu.
  • In Strängnäs, Cristina Gaman worked 1-3 hours a day at the weekend in people's houses. She earned SEK 70-75 an hour, sometimes less.

When Marian lost his job, they borrowed money from the bank – a loan that’s increased to 56,000 kronor because they haven’t paid off the interest for several years. Cristina doesn’t think that their poor finances are due to them being Boyash – a minority people who, like the Roma, were slaves in monasteries and in people’s homes until the mid-1800s and are somewhat carelessly called Roma – but due to unemployment.

“It’s not about discrimination – it’s the same for everyone living here. Romanians don’t have jobs either,” she says, referring to ethnic Romanians.

One difference that Cristina mentions is that to a greater extent, ethnic Romanians own farmland – land passed on from one generation to the next that can provide them with a little income. Also, due to their history, many adult Boyash and Roma are illiterate, thus making it more difficult for them to compete in the job market.

Schooling is free for everyone in Romania, but books and pens cost money – and if Daniel worked instead, our household finances would be in the black rather than the red.

But the richest man in the village is Roma, a building contractor who lives further down the street, in an ostentatious house with a shiny silver gate and an equally shiny car. "That's what everyone's dreaming of," says 14-year-old Daniel when he and his father Marian arrive home. A nice house and a nice car.

Daniel left school two years ago. His parents didn’t think they could afford to let him continue. Schooling is free for everyone in Romania, but books and pens cost money – and if Daniel worked instead, our household finances would be in the black rather than the red.

Also, changing your life by getting an education takes a very long time and can feel less secure than making money right here, right now – something the heavily indebted family felt was necessary.

Despite this explanation, we can’t help asking:

So you could afford to buy a car for 5,000 kronor but you can’t afford to let your son go to school?

“Yes,” Cristina Gaman confirms.

Her daughters, Catalina and Sara, go to school here in Crovu. They take pictures of us with their smartphones – iPhone and Samsung. Just like Swedish youngsters, they want clothes and gadgets.

Just like Swedish children, Catalina, 9, wants clothes and stuff. Photo: Christoffer Hjalmarsson

When the Gamans went to Sweden, the children were left alone under the supervision of their grandmother, who lives on the same farm but with whom the family has fallen out. Both grandparents are alcoholics. A lot of children who are left on their own, while their parents are abroad, don't manage to get to school and are left with a feeling of emptiness, which they sometimes fill with destructive behaviour.

That is why Cristina and Marian would prefer to move away with their children. This was partly what motivated their trip abroad, to try and improve their finances.

Marian went first. He’d heard from other people that there was money to be made in Sweden. Relatives of his had spent time in Mariefred and managed to make 300–400 kronor a day through begging. Begging six days a week can bring in a net income of 7,200–9,600 kronor each month.  

“We can never earn that much by working here,” says Cristina.

The average wage in Romania is 3,880 kronor after tax.

"You dare not take someone else's spot, if they've been there a long time. I've heard that in other Swedish towns beggars pay Romanians for a spot, but in Strängnäs and Mariefred, you just have to find a space somewhere," says Cristina.

The Gaman family pays 215 kronor a month for electricity and 43 kronor for cable TV. They own the house so they pay no rent, but they need to pay off their loan and buy food, clothes and school materials for the children, as well as wood in the wintertime. Preferably, the family needs to make around 4,000 kronor a month. The winters are particularly difficult as there's less casual work around then.

After a meagre winter last year, when the family got by on odd jobs and child benefit, Sweden looked like a promising option. To pay for the bus journey going north, the family borrowed money from a relative who had already been in Sweden.

 Marian Gaman came to Strängnäs in March 2015. A lot of people from Crovu had come to this small town in the county of Sörmland, and there were no begging spots available.

"You dare not take someone else's spot, if they've been there a long time. I've heard that in other Swedish towns beggars pay Romanians for a spot, but in Strängnäs and Mariefred, you just have to find a space somewhere," says Cristina.

Marian was standing on the street when a woman showed up and said:

“Come, we don’t want you standing outside in the cold.”

The woman’s name was Angelica Andersson and she was the cook for “a religious sect”.

That’s how things all started for Marian. But what he’d got involved in had started a few months’ earlier.

“The sect”, as Cristina and Marian call it, turned out to be the Pentecostal church in Strängnäs. In the winter of 2014 Pentecostal pastor Fredrik Olsson invited interested parties to a meeting to discuss what to do with the beggars who had come to the town.

They concluded that they needed a roof over their heads during the cold months of the year.

“I suggested that we should give them the key to the church. There was spontaneous applause,” says Fredrik Olsson.

But there were strings attached.

“We put pressure on them to make changes. We said that we didn’t want them to beg – instead they would have to earn their keep.”

Marian Gaman is one of the few Romanians who managed to get a job. But he earned a paltry wage, despite working full time. Photo: Private

One of several projects launched was making wooden spoons and nesting boxes. These were made in January and sold primarily between January and April via Facebook. This generated around 1,500 kronor per person per month.

The Pentecostal church also checked up on people who had come to beg, by registering them on the streets and then asking social services in Crovu what they needed – a registration process that is still used for new arrivals.

“There are limitations – we can’t help the whole world,” says Fredrik Olsson.

The response from the authorities was that everyone who had been begging was in need of financial support from social services.

A lot of them are in Romania, one of the most corrupt countries in the EU (source: Perceptions index 2014). According to a report published in spring 2015 by aid organisation Caritas, 40% of the population are at risk of living in poverty or social exclusion – that is 8 million Romanians.

A parish member of the Pentecostal church, Ingela Almqvist, who runs mission projects in Tanzania and is a hotel manager in the safari city of Arusha, gave twelve Romanians work.

They had to stand outside supermarkets like Coop, selling necklaces and fabric bags made by Maasai women in Tanzania. According to Marian they were promised 20% of the money they made. 80% was to go to the Maasai women.

"We didn't get any wages – we don't know how much money came in or what Ingela did with it."

The Romanians were persuaded to accept this after being told they would earn 10,000 kronor each in less than two months.

Marian worked six days a week, five to eight hours per day, depending on the weather. The products were hard to sell, and he started to wonder how much money he would actually get.

After a few weeks, five of the group dropped out because they dare not wait any longer for money that might not materialise – they needed money for day-to-day expenses and to send home to their children in Romania.

This was around the time that Cristina Gaman came to Strängnäs. A Swede paid for her flight.

“I came to Sweden because I was also going to sell crafts from Tanzania,” she says.

In total Marian worked for six weeks and Cristina four.

“We didn’t get a krona,” claims Marian.

Cristina frowns.

“We didn’t get any wages – we don’t know how much money came in or what Ingela did with it.”

When they began working on the project, the Gamans had to stay in a caravan in Ingela Almqvist's garden, together with some relatives from Crovu. After having seen how much space they have in their house back home, we wondered what they thought of it.

“Life in Sweden was very hard indeed: we got one meal a day, and the rest was scavenged from the bins behind Coop in the evenings. The food in the shops was far too expensive for us,” says Cristina.

A group of Romanians who came to Strängnäs to beg were chosen to sell crafts from Tanzania. There were promised they would earn SEK 10,000 in less than two months, but it did not really turn out that way.

As well as selling crafts from Tanzania, the Romanians provided domestic services to the residents of Strängnäs – cleaning, gardening, demolition, painting and final cleaning after people had moved house.

Cristina worked in people’s homes for one to three hours a day during the weekends, earning around 70–75 kronor an hour. Sometimes she got less.

“One woman paid me 100 kronor for three hours' work.”

This is Crovu

Agricultural community 60 km west of Bucharest.
1,441 inhabitants (according to 2011 census).

Around 400 of these are from the Boyash minority.

There is a modern school that is free of charge and welcomes everyone, regardless of ethnicity.

The local authority has made land available for the poorest citizens to live on.

The statutory minimum wage is 1,670 kronor after tax.

The average wage in Romania is 3,880 kronor after tax; in Bucharest it is 5,550 kronor.

People who are unemployed and have no health insurance can pay 125 kronor a month for insurance.

When you have health insurance you are entitled to a European Health Insurance Card.

Emergency healthcare is free for everyone in Romania for the first three days.

Child allowance is 430 kronor a month up to the age of two, and then 180 kronor.

The Romanians weren’t given the right to decide what happened to the money they earned either.

“Ingela said that we should have a joint account – we didn’t like that,” says Marian.

During the spring Marian got a job as a sheet metal worker with a blacksmith called Ulf Haake. He worked every day for two weeks and earned 4,800 kronor, but only got to keep 800 kronor.

How could you get as little as 800 kronor for two weeks’ work?

“Well, I had to share my wages with five others, who hardly worked at all. Only two of them did some gardening for a couple of days.”

Ulf Haake praises Marian’s skills as a craftsman and understands that he was disappointed about his money being shared, but it wasn’t Ulf who did this: it was Ingela Almqvist.

For all the work they did in March and April, Marian and Cristina made a grand total of 4,000 kronor. Even if you make a conservative estimate, that’s a lot less than they would have made from begging.

One Romanian says that he worked for six days, morning until night, doing demolition work and received 30 kronor, a packet of cigarettes and a bit of food.

Marian struggles to find the words when we ask how this felt for him. Finally, he says:

“It didn’t feel good – I didn’t like it at all. I did almost all the work, I know a little English and have professional skills. I was the only one who got up at five in the morning.”

Pastor Fredrik Olsson says that each Romanian made 20,000 kronor in ten weeks, working for Ingela Almqvist and doing work on the side. He claims that the sales commission on crafts from Tanzania was 40%.

Ingela Almqvist herself says it was 25%.

According to the Romanians, the commission was between 10-20%. Four of them say that they didn't get paid at all for selling Tanzanian crafts. They all feel that they were exploited.

Romanians have also been exploited when it comes to domestic work. The recommendation was to pay 75 kronor an hour, but they could be paid "according to skill and commitment". One Romanian says that he worked for six days, morning until night, doing demolition work and received 30 kronor, a packet of cigarettes and a bit of food.

The Gaman family – Catalina, 9, Sara, 13, Cristina, 33, Daria, 2, Daniel, 14 and Marian, 36 – on the street outside their home. Photo: Christoffer Hjalmarsson

The Romanians’ version of events is confirmed by Angelica Andersson, who cooked food for the Romanians more or less on a daily basis, both in the kitchen of the Pentecostal church and in her own home. When she realised that they wouldn’t be getting paid anywhere near the amounts they’d been enticed with, she dropped out of the Tanzania project.

“I think that they were exploited. They couldn’t possibly have received 10,000 kronor each when they were only bringing in 500–600 kronor a day in sales. That’s when I got out – because I have a good relationship with all the Romanians and didn’t want to be part of the mess when she paid out their wages,” says Angelica Andersson, who is not a member of the Pentecostal community.

She also says that the Romanians didn’t know what percent meant. One day, she held up a hundred krona note and explained how many of them would be sharing it. They then realised that they would never earn what they thought they’d been promised.

"We want to do it, because we're Christians and we think you should help your fellow citizens."

Now, Angelica Andersson is no longer allowed to cook in the church – hours that she received an activity allowance from the Swedish Public Employment Service for. She abruptly says:

“I’ve been fired from my job.”

Why?

“Because the Pentecostal church doesn’t want me to tell Expressen the truth about the Romanians’ wages.”

Pastor Fredrik Olsson confirms that he has called Angelica and told her not to spread stories "that paint the church out to be slave drivers."

"We've opened up our church so volunteers can come and cook food here. She's one of those volunteers ... we're not benefiting from any of this. We want to do it, because we're Christians and we think you should help your fellow citizens. If this is shown as us exploiting the situation, then I don't think the people of Strängnäs will keep bringing food to the church. And the Romanians are the ones who'll suffer."

Fredrik Olsson admits that Ingela Almqvist seems to have misjudged how well the crafts would sell, but he defends her nonetheless:

"Ingela is a member of our congregation. We support her and think what she's doing is great."

According to our calculations, Marian and Cristina Gaman earned 10 kronor an hour during their first stay in Sweden. Would you agree that this could be seen as slave wages?

"Ten kronor an hour does indeed sound very low. I don't think I'd even be able to afford food that day if I'd been paid that wage. I know that the people who were in Strängnäs have at least received food and accommodation."

When we ask the pastor his opinion of the Pentecostal church having told the Romanians that they have to work for their lodgings and then giving them cash in hand work, he replies adamantly:

"You can't make that connection. And no one has been working cash in hand. What we've told local residents is that they can employ an individual for up to a maximum of 999 kronor a year without having to declare tax on it. Then their wife or their neighbour can do the same, and so on." This is the line of reasoning Fredrik uses to prove that the domestic work is all legal and above board.

But according to the Swedish Tax Agency, the 999-kronor rule has nothing to do with taxes and social security contributions; the rule simply says that employers are not obliged to submit a statement of earnings and deductions up to that level.

How taxes and social security contributions are to be paid depends on whether the person hired is taxed at source or pays SINK tax (special income tax for persons resident abroad). If SINK tax is applicable, both tax and employer contributions must be paid from the first krona earned. If you’ve worked in Sweden for longer than six months, which may be the case for several of the Romanians, you are obliged to pay tax in the same way as Swedes and file a tax return.

The next question then is how the Romanians would be able to pay taxes and social security on income as low as 75 kronor an hour. There wouldn't be very much left.

Anna Löfving, initiator of the so-called Mariefred Model, calls in on Elena and Nicolai Tudor while they are selling their own home-made jam. Photo: Meli Petersson Ellafi

Johan Ingelskog, Head of the Employment Law and Collective Agreements unit at the Swedish Municipal Workers' Union (Kommunal), fully opposes the way in which the Romanians have been given work.

"In this case, people have wanted to do something out of the kindness of their hearts, but have gone completely off track. I'm sure their intentions were good, but when the recipient doesn't see it that way and doesn't think they've been treated fairly, it's not okay. Exploiting Romanians in this way, taking advantage of the fact that they're dependent on help, I think it's distasteful."

He compares it to a similar case concerning foreign berry pickers, which attracted widespread media attention.

"The way we see it, this is pure labour trafficking. Where berry picking is concerned, we've managed to sort it out and sign union agreements, raising the salary level to a minimum of 17,000 kronor a month."

Ingelskog also thinks that recommending payment at an hourly rate of 75 kronor constitutes wage dumping and undermines employment legislation.

"What's serious about this is that you're pricing companies out of the market. Companies that want to conduct professional domestic services businesses, that pay wages that are in line with union agreements and that pay social security contributions, so the workers are entitled to sick pay and pensions. These people are here with no rights whatsoever, and the competition is unhealthy."

Could this case be taken to court?

"Yes, if these people joined Kommunal, we'd be able to fight their case despite there being no union agreement, because people in a better position have to make sure they are not exploiting that when offering jobs to people in a vulnerable position."

"Yes, I still think it was a good way to do things, because they need to learn to take care of each other."

Despite the criticism, Ingela Almqvist defends the model.

“It’s an excellent means of helping people in need, of helping them to stop begging. We can’t give everyone a job. My aim wasn’t for them to stay in Sweden.”

Her plan was for the Romanians to earn 10,000 kronor each and then go home. Ingela Almqvist is adamant that the money should last a year, despite being just half the statutory minimum wage in Romania.

Several Swedes say the same thing – that they thought the Romanians needed to make enough money to buy something they said they needed when they were begging, and then they would go back home. But when you talk to the Romanians themselves, they have a different goal: to earn money, raise their standard of living.

According to Ingela Almqvist, each Romanian took around 2,500 kronor home with them in the end, once they'd paid for their return ticket, which she doesn't think is too little for six weeks' work. This amount takes into account all the wages divided between the group, regardless of whether they sold crafts or did gardening.

In Marian’s and Cristina’s case, this is the equivalent of just under ten kronor an hour.

Do you still think the collective solution was a good one?

“Yes, I still think it was a good way to do things, because they need to learn to take care of each other.”

Why should you be the one to decide how they run their lives?

"I want them to work as a team, because you're strong in a team. They were from the same village and all as poor as each other. If I just give a huge sum of money to one or two people, it will just cause more problems."

Almqvist claims that it wouldn’t be good for Marian to get a higher salary, naming 20,000 kronor a month as an example.

"If he gets home and can earn 20,000 kronor a month, I don't think it's that easy to come home when everyone else is still poor and struggling. It's not fair on him, and it's not fair on the others."

"Because in both Strängnäs and Mariefred, they have projects for Roma. I don't want to be part of some Roma project. That's not why I went to Sweden."

This group of Romanians is not the only one travelling abroad to earn money. On the contrary, a large portion of Romania's working population earns a living that way. It is estimated that as many as 3.7 million Romanians work abroad. Their jobs range from cleaners to doctors, and they earn much more than they would have done had they worked in Romania.

A lot of people have described Marian Gaman as driven and self-motivated. In the spring he obtained a Swedish social security number, so he could work there legally. In May Marian and Cristina went home to Crovu for a short visit. By June they were back in Sweden. Marian worked for Ulf Haake for a couple of months over the summer, at an hourly rate of 100 kronor – taxable – and received a gross salary totalling 14,035 kronor, which he didn't have to share.

Five thousand kronor was spent on buying the old Ford. The petrol to drive it to Crovu cost 3,000 kronor.

Marian and Cristina are now sitting in their living room in the Romanian countryside and say that they want to send their 14-year-old son Daniel to Sweden to earn money but they know it can be difficult because he’s under age.

We wonder if it wouldn’t be better if Marian worked for Ulf Haake again.

“Ulf’s kind – he’s like my brother. But no, I don’t want to go back,” Marian replies, after a lengthy silence.

Why not?

“Because in both Strängnäs and Mariefred, they have projects for Roma. I don’t want to be part of some Roma project. That’s not why I went to Sweden.”

Wages and benefits in Romania

The statutory minimum wage is 1,670 kronor after tax.
The average wage in the country is 3,880 kronor after tax.
The average wage in Bucharest is 5,550 kronor after tax.
An adult who is unemployed and thus has no health insurance can take out such insurance for 125 kronor per month.

Health insurance is required in order to be eligible for a European Health Insurance Card.

Emergency healthcare is free for everyone in Romania for the first three days.

Child allowance is 430 kronor a month up to the age of two, and then 180 kronor up to the age of 18.

Those who are ill for a long period are entitled to sickness benefit.

People with disabilities can get a sickness pension and financial support for a personal assistant.

Income support is needs-tested based on the number of family members, other benefits, and income from farmland and animal husbandry.

For a family of two adults and four children, they amount to 1,210 kronor a month.

If you receive welfare benefits and are fit for work, you are obliged to do community service, for example, work in a park, for a certain number of hours a month.

There is information on recipients of welfare benefits who have been abroad to beg being crossed off the list of recipients because they are considered as having undeclared income.

The hardest thing you can do is help people. These are the words of Rickard Klerfors, aid director at the charitable organisation Hjärta till Hjärta. He thinks that even collections made by private individuals can pose problems. This was precisely the case with a collection made at a flea market in Mariefred – just one of the residents’ many initiatives.

A woman who had been begging in Mariefred had said that she needed 15,000 kronor for her son’s jaw operation. Pastor Fredrik Olsson and Anna Löfving, editor-in-chief of local newspaper Mariefreds Tidning took the opportunity to hand over the money in Crovu in March 2015 when they were there on a visit.

Everything turned out to be more complicated than they'd thought. You couldn't pay the hospital directly and just get the operation done, which is what Anna Löfving says she had naively thought. She wanted to come home and tell everyone in Mariefred that the money had been put to good use, and turned to Hjärta till Hjärta for advice.

In the end the money was presented to Hjärta till Hjärta’s area director in Crovu, who contacted a dental surgeon and discovered that the mother had exaggerated the cost of the operation – the price was 4,300 kronor. The Swedes suggested that the rest be paid to Crovu municipality to cover half the cost of installing electricity in the homes of five families. The municipality promised to foot the bill for the other half. They subsequently backed out, saying they didn’t have enough money in the budget.

And there were problems with the dental surgeon too. The last that was heard from him was that he wanted to do the operation for 2,150 kronor – cash in hand, straight into his own pocket and with no guarantees. Since then Hjärta till Hjärta has been unable to reach the boy's mother – they think she may have returned to Sweden.

To date, only 236 kronor of the 15,000 have been used – to pay a driving school because Anna Löfving wanted a Romanian to get his driving licence. She didn’t know that he didn’t have a licence and had let him drive round delivering newspapers. And even getting a licence was a non-starter – he was illiterate and unable to study for the theory test.

”If they have to work according to union agreements, how can we get Swedes to employ them for those wages?"

Newspaper owner and editor-in-chief Anna Löfving has been praised for her commitment to providing jobs for beggars. She has been nominated for Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet's Swedish Heroes award (Svenska hjältar), and the Mariefred anti-begging Model was nominated for the 2015 Diversity Achievement of the Year award (Årets mångfaldsbragd 2015).

We talk to Anna Löfving for several hours about all the goings on in Strängnäs and Mariefred. She calls the Romanians her friends, saying she has only ever wanted to do good and thinks it's positive that people are looking into everything that happened.

She now wants to ensure the jobs are all above board and has plans to start a staffing company known as Crovu Creation. According to an advert already published in Mariefreds Tidning, it will still be possible to employ Romanians for domestic work at "low rates".

In actual fact, a form of staffing company has been in place the whole time. A Swede receives job offers via Facebook, distributes them among the Romanians and makes sure they’re picked up outside the ICA supermarket in the mornings. Swedes’ bank accounts, including Anna Löfving’s, have sometimes been used to deposit the Romanians’ wages. They haven’t received any pay slips or receipts.

With regard to the trade unions being of the opinion that everyone in Sweden should pay taxes and work under a contract, Anna says:

“This is a big and complex area, and it’s difficult to know how you can help and follow these rules. The services provided are very simple – cleaning out wardrobes and doing gardening. No social security contributions or taxes or anything like that have been paid for this work. If they have to work according to union agreements, how can we get Swedes to employ them for those wages?”

Why isn’t that possible?

"Partly it's down to terrible prejudice – people looking down their noses at them and thinking that they're incapable of anything. Partly it's because they don't speak Swedish, they can't read and write, they don't have a driving licence. This can make things difficult in the beginning for the people who employ them – you have to gesticulate and translate – and they're not trained painters or cleaners either. I guess that's one reason why they can't get paid as much as Swedes. And then there's the fact that people have become used to the 75 kronor an hour that we recommended."

"The same rules apply to EU citizens living in the county of Sörmland as they do to us. For example, they pay 100 kronor if they need to go to the doctor."

These are things that you can often hear in Romania, the county that is considered discriminatory, about why Romanian Boyash and Roma are paid less than ethnic Romanians.

There are several adverts in the Mariefreds Tidning newspaper that say the Romanians who are available for employment "are insured and comply with prevailing rules and legislation." Is it true that they're insured?

“We thought they were insured – we assumed that they had their EU insurance cards with them. But we’ve subsequently understood that this wasn’t the case. But if you have home insurance, you can claim on that if something gets broken at home.”

They recently scraped the paint off a whole house. What happens if someone falls off a ladder?

"The same rules apply to EU citizens living in the county of Sörmland as they do to us. For example, they pay 100 kronor if they need to go to the doctor."

But going to the medical centre or A&E is one thing. The question is how they could be compensated for occupational injuries or any possible future disabilities when they're working cash in hand.

“Yes, that’s a good question.”

"Naive idealism"

Rickard Klerfors, Aid Director at Hjärta till Hjärta, an organisation with extensive experience of Romania, said the following about the model used in Strängnäs and Mariefred:

"The solidarity doesn't extend further than cheap domestic services. In their naive idealism, they don't realise that they're actually part of the problem. If we're serious about showing solidarity, we should take great care to ensure that everything is above board and that the immigrants are given a proper chance – by working and paying taxes – to make lives for themselves in Sweden."

A month after Marian Gaman sat at home in his living room in Crovu and said he didn’t want to return to Strängnäs, we find out that he’s done just that.

"I guess a lot went wrong at the start, when all of this was new and we didn't know any better, but perhaps you have to first make mistakes in order to learn how to do things right."

He explains that his father has died, that his mother has cirrhosis of the liver and that he needs money. He's living in his Ford Galaxy, trying to get a job on his own in Strängnäs and Mariefred. According to the Swedish Transport Agency, his car had not had an MOT, was unregistered and was illegal to drive.

The entire group in Mariefred is related to Marian – four brothers by the name of Tudor who are his cousins, a Mrs Tudor and a sister-in-law.

Anna Löfving has no doubts that what Marian is saying is true, but says that on two occasions Romanians have come running to her, saying they had to travel home urgently because their mother was dying of cancer. The first time, she paid for their flights, and then they came back and worked for a while and said the same thing again. That time they had to pay for their trips home themselves. Anna Löfving has wondered whether they were using their mother's illness to get tickets a second time and even whether she should have paid for them the first time.

A Swede who paid 9,200 kronor to renovate and insure Marian’s car feels that in retrospect, it would perhaps have been better to spend the money on some other form of help.

"I guess a lot went wrong at the start, when all of this was new and we didn't know any better, but perhaps you have to first make mistakes in order to learn how to do things right.", says Anna Löfving.

Marian's only plan for the future is to improve the standard of living for his family.

When we check to see how things are going in Crovu, it turns out that Marian Gaman's father has died and his mother is in hospital. Marian borrowed 5,400 kronor from a neighbour for the funeral. That was one of the reasons Marian returned to Strängnäs.

Marian's only plan for the future is to improve his family's standard of living. He is quarrelling with his mother and his siblings, who he has to buy out so that he can sign his father's farmland over to himself. And now he thinks he might be better off leaving it all behind and moving to that country up north. But everything's so expensive there. So he asks:

"What do you have to do to claim benefits in Sweden?"

Fixer and Interpreter: Madalina Botoran