Four young people who recently emigrated to Australia from Donegal believe they were caught up this week in an alleged jobs scam that was highlighted on national television.
The four, who have asked not to be named, are all in their early 20s and from the south of the county.
One of the girls explained: “The man who worked in the hostel told us about a lady in Mildura he knew called Vicky who always takes people to work on farms. We rang her and she told us to come up that evening.
“When we got there, at about 10pm, a guy called Don met us. He told us he was in charge and said we would have to pay him 150 euro each as a deposit plus a $320 for a ‘employee fee’. He wanted £320 for the next two weeks and from then on $160 per week. He said this wasn’t rent, it was a fee for finding us jobs. He said we wouldn’t need money as they pay for your food. He also said us we would be working for around eight hours a day and earning about $120 per day.”
The four friends were far from happy but weighed their concerns against the promise of work, food and accommodation.
One of the young men recalls: “We told him we only had $500 between us because we wanted to hold back some of our money to keep us going. He said that we had to pay the balance of the money, $1,380, by the next day. If we didn’t have it, he would take it out of our wages. He then he took us to our rooms which were just like sheds.”
The four asked around and two Germans said they had only been getting about three hours work each day.
“We realised we were getting ripped off,” the young man continued. “Who pays their boss money to start work? So, we left the next morning.
“The boss wasn’t there. He had told us the night before that he had to go to Melbourne to meet his solicitor and that he might be on the news that evening. We didn’t get to watch the news that night but when we found the clip on youtube, we were glad we left when we did!”
A national news programme called ‘A Current Affair’ showed clips of Don hurling abuse at his workers. He claimed this was because someone had damaged his property. Two German girls told the programme, however, that he called them “sluts, bitches, German prostitutes and drug hippies” and took $850 of their money. Two young women from Glasgow said they lost $1,000 and “were dumped at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere” when they decided to leave after five days.
Casual work on farms is a popular option with Australian immigrants, who have to work 88 days to qualify for a second year visa.