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Romania: Child labor, or a staged photoshoot?

According to a report in the British tabloid The Sun, whole families in Romania are working from home packing toys for Kinder eggs. The paper claims children are forced to do this work, but is the story really true?

A report allegedly uncovering illegal child labor has caused uproar in Romania. The British tabloid newspaper The Sun wrote that many poor families in the north-west of the country were working from home putting together plastic toys for Kinder Surprise eggs.

It told of a family working up to 13 hours a day for a pittance, for a supplier of the Italian Ferrero company, and claimed that the family's three children, aged between six and 11, regularly help piece the plastic segments together. For every 1,000 of these popular "surprises," the supplier allegedly paid the equivalent of about 4.45 euros. Each Kinder Surprise chocolate egg costs around 80 euro cents to buy in the shops.

Romanian authorities investigating

After the report was published, the Romanian police opened an enquiry. The youth welfare office has also got involved. The authorities are investigating whether the families forced their children to work, thereby exploiting them. They are also investigating the supplier. A Ferrero spokesman announced that the contract with the company would be cancelled if the accusations proved true. Child labor was banned at Ferrero, he said, and all its suppliers were subject to strict controls. The supplier has let it be known that it did not employ anyone illegally, nor did it pay its workers less than the minimum wage.

Mother: Journalists claimed to be filming an advert

On the Romanian television channel Digi24, the children's mother denied the British tabloid's story. She said it had been staged, and that she'd been told the British journalists were filming an advert for Kinder Surprise. She hadn't understood everything that was said to her in English. The children had been asked to sit with her too, to make a "nice picture."

She said that her family depended on outwork to top up their meager income, and that she herself had been sick for months and received a very small pension; her children attended school regularly and were not forced to work. The woman also said that the journalists had held out the prospect of a job in Britain for her husband.

Invented story about arms sales to terrorists in Romania

It's not the first time the British media have published horror stories about the country which later turned out to be hoaxes. Last summer the TV channel Sky News reported that mafia gangs were supposedly selling weapons to terrorists. The Romanian police immediately opened an investigation, and subsequently announced that the story was an invention. The journalists had paid extras to play the parts of arms dealers; the guns involved were collectors' items. A number of people, who admitted receiving 2,000 euros each for their "appearances," were arrested.

Romanian journalists have long suspected that their British colleagues are whipping up negative feelings at home over the possible immigration of impoverished Romanians. This is why it's all the more important for the authorities to get to the bottom of this case as fast as possible.

Child labor is banned in Romania, which is a member of the European Union. There also needs to be an end to the dishonest working methods in certain sectors of the tabloid media.

 

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