Crowded dormitories, excessive work schedules and low pay. These are the conditions faced by some migrant workers in Germany – the economic powerhouse of the EU.
Many of the foreigners were promised much more before they left their own countries.
The government in the northwestern region of Lower Saxony is asking for federal help to tackle these abuses.
“This has to stop. These are people who work in German companies and must be treated humanely and they also need to be represented by working councils,” said Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil.
There is no minimum wage in Germany. This can even mean pay of between three and six euros an hour or a monthly salary of between 300-500 euros.
These type of low wages are prevalent in certain sectors, such as the meat industry.
There are around two million of what is called “working poor” in the country.
The EU describes migrants paid these low wages as “low cost” and estimates there are 1.5 million of them sent by employers to work in other German states.
This kind of exploitation has become known as “modern slavery” and it destabilises entire sectors of the economy.
It is difficult for Europe to solve this problem because harmonising labour laws would prove extremely difficult.
Fixing the problem in Germany alone would be hard, according to Ernst Michael Andritzky from the Association of Food Industries in Lower Saxony.
“Whether a business manufactures its own products, buys goods or certain services, this is part of the entrepreneurial freedom enshrined in the constitution. A legislator can’t do much to change this. The political talk at the moment is a lot of election campaigning,” said Andritzky.
Whether there is an election looming or not, the problem is real in Germany.
The online retailer Amazon has been criticised over the conditions faced by migrant employees in Germany – including accommodation and the security company used, which reportedly has links to the extreme right.