Society 21/08/2021

23 migrant women robbed in fake job interview to care for the elderly

They were locked in a room to take a psycho-technical test and their bags were stolen in a co-working centre in Mataró

4 min
Clara, Abigail, Sonia and Cristina are some of the victims of the scam.

BarcelonaMaria Jesús Inestrosa, a Nicaraguan refugee, arrived on 11 August in Mataró early in the morning: she had not slept because she had worked all night taking care of an elderly person, but she did not want to miss the opportunity of a better job. Through a Facebook group of migrants looking for work she had received an offer that in such a precarious sector seemed very interesting: 1,200 euros to work as an intern from 7 am to 7 pm in a house taking care of the elderly, with weekends off, overtime and paid holidays. She had sent her CV to the e-mail address indicated in the offer and received an appointment for an interview at ten o'clock in the morning. Little did she know that instead of being given a job she would be the victim, like 22 other migrant women, of a miserable scam.

The women had been summoned to a co-working centre in Mataró. "I arrived ten minutes late and I met a man wearing a badge around his neck that read "psychologist", who first told me I was late but then let me pass. There was a waiting room and they called the women five by five. They explained to us that the job was for relatives of Spanish and European politicians, people with a high economic position, and that we had to pass a psychological test and then undergo a polygraph test in which we would have to answer the question of whether we had ever stolen in one of the houses where we had worked", the woman recounts. With this pretext they made them leave all their belongings in some cupboards outside the room: mobile phones, jewellery, watches...; the metallic objects interfered with the machine used to know that they were telling the truth.

They made them go to a large room where they were given the psycho-technical questionnaires, according to the complaint that 14 of the women have presented to the Mossos d'Esquadra. "The man gave us the papers and said he had to go to make more photocopies because he did not have enough. He told us that we could not start answering and I read the questions. Some were very difficult", says Clara de la Rosa, a Venezuelan girl with refugee status who has been looking for work for four months and who arrived in Mataró with the last 10 euros she had. "It looked like a serious company: the place, the forms, how they treated us..." But the minutes passed and the man did not return. They had no watches or mobile phones and the victims didn't know each other, and suddenly someone realised something wasn't right. When they tried to get out, the door was locked. "I was able to get out through an emergency door to the street and re-entered through reception. I saw that our things had been moved around", explains Sonia Jara, born in Paraguay, who has lived in Catalonia for 12 years and has had two children here.

Back to school money

"I had 200 euros in my bag: I had been paid 150 at the home, and 50 more. I had planned to go and buy things for my son's return to school", says Maria Jesús, who, when she saw that everything had been stolen, exhausted, without having eaten and with the nerves of the moment, lost consciousness. "I couldn't believe it", she remembers. Clara was lucky that Andressa Cristina da Silva, a 33-year-old Brazilian who had been by her side during the test, took her by the hand. "The police came and we explained everything to them. They took a statement from one girl, but the rest of us were given a police report number so that we could report it to a police station near our home", she recalls. "I saw that they wouldn't do anything more for us there and I looked for a way to get back home", says the Brazilian. Sandra Abigail Almada, a 25-year-old Argentinian girl who has only been in Barcelona for four months, still gets emotional when she remembers the humiliation she felt when she had to stop a woman in the street to ask her to let her call her husband on her mobile phone: "She asked me if I would run away with her mobile phone and I burst into tears.... How could I explain the surreal story that had happened to me? You feel guilty, as if you were stupid", she laments.

The migrant activist Rosa Aldave, who is accompanying the victims, has tracked this type of offers since the pandemic began last year in places like Tarragona, Murcia, Granada, Seville and Madrid: "They take advantage of the most vulnerable people, who need to find work and work in a situation of abuse and precariousness. With many difficulties, they have organised themselves in a Whatsapp group to make a joint complaint and now seek legal advice. Those affected who do not have all their papers in order do not dare, however, to go to the police. The women who have had the courage to denounce and reach out to this newspaper know that they probably will not recover what they have stolen, but what keeps them awake at night the most is that the Facebook groups continue to receive suspicious offers - and fear that there may be many more scams. The Mossos say that the co-working company that had provided the space did not receive any payment and that the data provided by the scammers were false. The investigation is still ongoing and the police do not rule out the possibility that it is a plot and that there may be many more victims.