Politics 30 September 2015 15 1996
With political wrangling and an economy in decline at home, thousands of Ukrainian people have moved to Europe to find jobs. In the last year alone, more than 400,000 Ukrainians were given Polish work permits. They are willing to take the most menial and low paid work because even that would be better than they could expect back home. Finding even those jobs is a real challenge.
Desperate job seekers have fallen prey to unscrupulous conmen who promise well-paid positions but charge exorbitant fees for what turns out to be either just another menial or even non-existent vacancy. Others find that employers themselves take advantage of the migrants, making them work in hard and unsafe conditions, demanding long hours and sometimes simply refusing to pay.
Some Ukrainians who fail to find full time work have come up with different ways to make money: from roadside trading to working as couriers between the two countries. It’s exhausting work and there’s a lot of competition. They don’t make much money but at least they do make some. There are many elderly people too, their pensions are too low to live on and they have no way to earn an income in Ukraine. Every morning they cross the Polish border in the vain hope of a casual job, or to sell whatever they can find in Ukraine.
Young people try their luck in factory or agriculture work, customer service and cleaning positions. Many feel they have no choice but to keep going, despite the hardships they face along the way. Anyone lucky enough to find a job is determined to hold on to it at all costs and often turns a blind eye to any health risks it may involve. They live with other employees in crammed conditions and are prepared to work long hours. For a large number of Ukraine’s migrant workers, this is the reality of EU life but they say going back is not an option.