BUCHAREST - A story for which journalists manage to document an entire route is rare. In the case of the asparagus workers journalists managed to document the entire route from the Ukraine in the east to the Netherlands in the west.

The story goes like this: Poor Ukrainian and Moldovan workers are lured into moving to the Czech Republic. Here they live under slave-like conditions in work camps picking asparagus for a Czech company. The company is owned by a Dutch vegetable trading company, who ultimately can be assumed to profit from the low cost labour.

The first part of the story was documented by an international team coordinated by Adrian Mogos from Romanian daily Journalul National. Along with colleagues from the Ukraine and Moldova he documented the eastern part of the story and made first contacts in the Netherlands.

The story was published widely in Romania, the Ukraine, Moldova, the Czech Republic and various other countries.

Recently it has been picked up by Dutch colleagues both at local and national level. Journalist Martijn Roessingh from daily newspaper Trouw addresses the problem and confronts the owner of the Czech company about the allegations – building upon the work of the Eastern European colleagues and thus finalising the route.

The funding

The funding for the research is diverse. The Romanian team are staff members of their daily newspaper, yet they did not have money to travel to the Czech Republic or the Netherlands, so they were granted funding from Journalismfund.eu. The Ukrainian and Moldovan colleagues co-funded their research with a grant from the Scoop project. The Dutch colleague, finally, fulfilled the research as part of his work as a staff writer at a Dutch daily.

By Brigitte Alfter