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Chung’s restaurant job in Finland turned out to be human trafficking

The story and the characters are fictitious. The story is adapted from real-life events.

ihmiskauppaa-ravintola-alalla-naiskokkiChung had been unemployed for quite a while when his uncle told him about a job opportunity abroad. The uncle owned a restaurant in Finland and promised Chung a job there. Chung’s uncle was a very influential man in Chung’s home village, so when they made the contract, Chung did not negotiate. He just signed the paper that he was given.

According to the contract, Chung’s uncle would arrange Chung's flight to Finland, his accommodation in Finland and a job in the restaurant. Because this was all very expensive, Chung committed to working for two years without pay. Chung’s uncle also promised that after working two years Chung would be granted Finnish citizenship. He would then be entitled to Finnish public services, like free health care and education.

In Finland, Chung’s uncle gave him a room downstairs of the restaurant. Chung was at the restaurant’s disposal around the clock: he took in deliveries in the small hours, cleaned the restaurant and cooked until closing time. After that he still had to clean up and prepare the vegetables for the following day. Chung’s uncle was a stern man and did not approve of loitering.

As Chung did not speak Finnish or English, he was unable to obtain information about his rights in Finland. His uncle took advantage of this. Chung believed that everyone else worked under similar conditions, and the situation was, after all, already familiar to him from China. Chung’s uncle took care of all contacts with the authorities and accompanied him to every visit. Because Chung’s uncle interpreted the discussions between Chung and the authorities, he was able to decide what the authorities heard about Chung’s situation. For the authorities, Chung’s uncle prepared an employment contract that had similar terms and conditions of employment as in any regular Finnish employment contract but had nothing to do with Chung’s actual working conditions.

After Chung had worked in this manner for seven months, his health started to fail. Even though he had believed at first that he could work as agreed, the hard working pace and short nights of sleep proved to be too much for him. Chung asked his uncle for days off and at least a little salary. His uncle replied that if Chung was not interested in working, he could easily be sent away from Finland without a penny. In China, Chung would not be able to pay his debt, and his uncle could see to it that the debt would be collected back in Chung’s home village as well. Also Chung’s family would turn their backs on him if he betrayed his uncle.

Chung had no choice but to keep working. Leaving the restaurant was not an option, as it was winter and cold outside. Chung had neither money nor any other place to stay. He was not familiar with even the immediate surroundings of the restaurant, let alone would he have known where to go for help. He was completely dependent on his uncle.