BUCHAREST, Romania: Hundreds of Chinese workers were camped outside their embassy in Bucharest on Monday, trying to get home because Romanian construction companies had failed to pay them.
Gabriel Ghelmegeanu, an official at the Romania-China Chamber of Commerce, said "hundreds if not thousands" of Chinese workers are stranded in Romania.
Groups of workers were squatting around fires Monday to keep warm. About 80 were living in improvised tents. They said they had not been paid in two months.
Officials said the workers paid large sums to Romanian and Chinese intermediary companies in return for long-term contracts in construction.
Some of the companies failed to obtain work permits, officials said. Ghelmegeanu said many of the workers were employed illegally.
"I was told I was going to get Euro 3 ($3.80) an hour for working 10 hours a day," said Gao Lin, 23, who arrived ten months ago. "But here we were told to do 12 hours a day for less money. And now I haven't been paid for two months and I have no more work."
Many of the workers arrived in November, just as the global economic downturn began to affect Romania's economy.
The Chinese embassy said in a statement on its Web site last week that it was trying to assist the workers. Ghelmegeanu estimated 500 had been repatriated since November.