Bulgarian workers: Smuggling Workers to the German Promised Land

same with the romanian workers


Bulgarian Traffic

Smuggling Workers to the German Promised Land

By Özlem Gezer

Photo Gallery: Passage to Germany

Photo Gallery: 9 Photos

Mauricio Bustamante/DER SPIEGEL

Modern human traffickers are supplying the German market with workers from Bulgaria, who can expect to earn three euros an hour and sleep in a basement. A journey with day laborers who see Germany as a land of milk and honey.


Bojan Hakim* is standing on the market square, accepting orders. „Three men between 20 and 35,“ says one customer, „but this time I want some stronger ones!“ Hakim nods. He gives the builder his business card. It features the image of a VW Transporter, with the words „Germania Turs“ written below it in red letters.


Fruit and vegetable vendors hawk their produce on one side while junk dealers sell radios and ashtrays on the other. The scene is the weekly market in Wilhelmsburg, a blue-collar and immigrant neighborhood of Hamburg. There is great demand for inexpensive but high-quality items.There’s also demand for Hakim’s stock-in-trade: His Bulgarian laborers are wanted on construction sites, on the docks, in bars and on cleaning crews. His mobile phone rings constantly. He fields calls from pizza bakers in Denmark and warehouse managers in Frankfurt. Everyone places orders for workers at a flat daily rate of €25, tax-free and without insurance.

Hakim, 33, knows his way around the business. He once worked as a livestock trader in Bulgaria, trading sheep, goats and cattle. His animals had to be healthy, strong and willing. It was a good business. Today he trades in people. They have to be just as healthy, strong and willing — but for Hakim the profits are better.