German clinics pay intermediaries up to € 15,000 to bring a medical practitioner from the Balkans. It brings in thousands of people a year. Big business is making a big deal in this business. The highest profits are made by intermediaries.
Due to the poverty and scarcity that prevail in the Balkan countries, people are ready to leave their family, work (if they have one), home and go into the unknown. In recent years, Germany has been the most up-to-date and most popular mass migration country. The caregiver job in a nursing home in Germany is one of the most sought after and best paid jobs. The lifespan of recent years has extended especially in the developed countries of Western Europe. The elderly are finding their new home in nursing homes. Therefore, the caregiver’s job is sought after and popular.
However, for example, German firms accept new workers (caregivers in this case) if they have at least a basic knowledge of the language (in this case German).
There is another side to the story here. Intermediaries appear to open so-called Intermediary Agencies that “help” people find carer jobs. They charge large sums of money for this service. Many people are desperate for help from these agencies. Of course, the goal of the agencies is not to help, but to make the most of the newly created situation, or to accumulate the greatest profit on someone else’s distress and anguish. People are promised a job, provided they finish German language school. People come from all over the Balkans and other countries where the economic situation is poor. Agencies involved in brokering go to the point of making contracts with clients (people who want to go to Germany). People are hoping that they will be helped until they eventually realize that they have been duped and tricked.
One such instant business agency is the Artigum Management Agency, which claimed to be “owned by an employer from Germany”. After a while, no one answers the phone numbers anymore. Rumors have it that the Agency is still operating but under a different name.
The Balkan despair and German need have opened the door to a new industry, a whole departure industry where labor intermediaries and their “recruits” in the field, language schools, advisers are lurking.
According to data from the German Federal Employment Office, in March this year 50,000 nationals of the countries of the so-called Western Balkans worked in the medical and nursing sector in Germany. That’s about 6,500 more than a year ago.
Industry insiders say the figure is higher. More than ten thousand carers from the Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Northern Macedonia and Montenegro) are imported annually. Balkan nurses are a sought after commodity – they are supposed to fill a hole in Germany. According to the darkest estimates, Germany will miss 200,000 carers in five years.
One large German nursing home chain is poised to pay between eight and ten thousand euros to bring one caregiver.
German agencies admit, when the microphones are turned off, that some clinics pay more, up to fifteen thousand euros. They distribute this amount to the language schools and their recruiters. The rest is profit.
This new industry weighs hundreds of millions of euros a year and is often reminiscent of the Wild West.
In a small office on the outskirts of Cologne, Kay Simon smiles tiredly at such stories. He is the head of IPP Health, one of the largest in the Balkans.
“Agencies promise people surreal salaries, tell them they can bring their family right away, and then come to Germany,” Simon says. “It’s cold here, it’s raining, the family is far away and can’t come, the pay is not as promised … It destroys people.”
“It’s not going to promise people anything and everything, transplant them from where their roots are, and then it turns out that you lied. It’s almost like human trafficking,”Simon says.
Another agent confesses to recruiting people through hospitals in the Balkans. He has several nurses who find clients for him. “For example, she called me and said she had three colleagues who would go to Germany. If that works out, I’ll pay her three hundred euros per person.”
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Intermediaries know full well what can ruin their calculations – they are left empty if they invest in a language school and work with a candidate, and the candidate for any reason quits before signing a contract with a German employer.
The Pro Sert brokerage agency is asking the candidate to sign that they will pay the agency three thousand euros if they refuse to go to Germany. The candidate pays a penalty if he or she finds a job or other agency to represent him / her. Or if he declines two jobs the agency offers.
The Pro Sert agency works with Dekra Academy – which means a lot to German employers. The roofing concern of that academy, Dekra, has an annual turnover of € 3.3 billion. He mainly deals with vehicle technical inspection. Dekra is a term of seriousness for the Germans.
“There are obviously fraudulent contracts where there are hidden costs for a person going abroad and very unfavorable working conditions, which means 10 to 12 hours a day, seven days a week. These are conditions that are not only incompatible with the legislation of a country, but are not and cannot comply with the legislation in Germany, ”warns this lawyer.
Agencies, the so-called Intermediaries, also help the great migration that empties the Balkans year after year. They openly admit that they are most interested in the young, those with the most demographic potential. Candidates over 40 are drastically less likely.
Kay Simon refers to the World Health Organization’s conclusions that the Balkan countries have a surplus medical workforce. Still, he is aware that this pool is not bottomless. “We understand that this will end in the coming years – it cannot last for decades.”
And then, she says, she will bring more caregivers from the Philippines.
A large number of people have a fear of the unknown and therefore turn to agencies. Here you need to know that no agency sees you as a friend or person who wants to help them live a normal life or find a normal job. The agency is most looking at earnings and most often just earnings and profits. Not people. Emcoia has no empathy here either. So before contacting any agency, try to master the basics of German yourself. Instead, buy a one-way ticket (to your desired destination in Germany) and go your own way. Life is strange, and you will surely encounter many good people, along the way, of strangers on your journey “for a better tomorrow.” Maybe you can find a job right away, maybe not, in any case you are not mistaken. Big changes and a better future will come. You need to believe that. Your will to work and a hope of finding a job and have a better chance at a better life – will never fail. It can only bring good things to life. Be humble and persistent. Trust yourself by no means brokering and fraud agencies. There are good people everywhere and there will be more.
** This research was made possible by the Reporters in the Field program conducted by the Robert Bosch Foundation and the n-ost media NGO.
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