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Police raid abattoirs across Germany accused of smuggling in workers

Police raid abattoirs across Germany accused of smuggling in workers

Police raid abattoirs across Germany accused of smuggling in workers

More than 800 German police officers were involved in a series of simultaneous raids on Wednesday morning, targeting more than 40 slaughterhouses accused of smuggling in migrant workers illegally. Mass coronavirus outbreaks at a number of slaughterhouses in Germany have recently shed light on dubious working practices in the industry. 

Police raid slaughterhouses across Germany

Since the early hours of Wednesday morning, German police have been conducting searches in five federal states - primarily Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony, as well as Berlin, Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia

The raid was directed against two temporary employment agencies based in Germany and Poland - although the names of the companies have not yet been released. They are said to have been acting independently of one another but employing the same business practices, primarily in the meat industry.

The companies targeted are accused of bringing people from Eastern Europe to Germany with forged or falsified documents. They are said to have supported the workers, who primarily hail from Romania, with visits to the authorities, accommodation and transport, but also deducted these services from their wages

According to the federal police, more than 40 residential and business premises have been searched, and more than 1,5 million euros has been confiscated. Authorities are seeking to cast “light on the illegal employment of temporary workers,” a police spokesperson told the news agency AFP. 

Special investigation into smuggling of illegal contract workers

Since April 2020, a special commission led by the public prosecutor in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, has been conducting an investigation into the smuggling of illegal contract workers, after officers noticed a significant increase in the number of people stopped at the border with false documents. 

The commission was set up just before a series of high-profile coronavirus outbreaks at German slaughterhouses provoked a public outcry about living and working conditions in the industry. Meat processors in Germany have long been cutting costs by employing thousands of cheap subcontractors from low-wage countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Poland. 

In July, the federal government approved a bill that would ban the hiring of subcontractors in the meat industry and instead force companies to hire workers directly via employment contracts - by stipulating that core activities in the meat industry such as slaughtering, carving and processing may no longer be carried out by external employees. It is expected to come into force in January 2021.  

Germany’s largest meat company, Tönnies, which was at the centre of the coronavirus outbreaks earlier in the year, says it has not been affected by the raids. “So far, there has been no search at our location in Weißenfels,” said a spokesperson. There were no searches at other Tönnies locations in Germany either.  ​​​​​​

Abi

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Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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