Final Word from Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Just as "Slumdog Millionaire" is shining light on the seamier side of Mumbai, the sudden turn of fortune in Czech industry is highlighting the plight of unskilled foreign workers lured to the country during the boom years and shunted aside during the bust. Some people are comparing the situation to the 19th-century slave trade. The foreigners came to the CR voluntarily, but they were swallowed up into a corrupt system that involves gangsters in countries such as Mongolia and Vietnam, compliant embassy officials, employment agencies that serve as the coyotes, and slumlords who keep the workers in hock. Often forgotten are the employers themselves - the slave owners, so to speak. Without the demand for cheap labor on their end, the entire system would have no reason to exist. They profited during the boom and should rightly help fund the cost of dismantling the system during the bust.[Czech Republic Vietnamese Mongolians Ukraine Ukrainians]

Glossary of difficult words

slumlord - an owner of slum property, esp. one who overcharges tenants and allows the property to deteriorate;

seamy - squalid, unpleasant;

turn of fortune - change of circumstances (for the worse);

plight - a dangerous, difficult or otherwise unfortunate situation;

to shunt aside - to turn or move something aside or onto another course;

compliant - inclined to agree with others, esp. to an excessive degree;

coyote - a person who smuggles Latin Americans across the U.S. border, typically for a high fee;

in hock - in debt;

to dismantle - to take apart; disassemble.

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