In the case of chemical company Borealis, more than 100 victims of human trafficking demonstrated in front of the Cabinet of Flemish Health Minister Hilde Krewitz (CD&V). Last summer, police found dozens of trafficking victims at a construction site in the port of Antwerp. They worked almost unpaid in building the new Borealis factory. More than 120 victims have taken to the streets as they are still waiting for help and residence permits. VRT NWS spoke to some of the victims.
“I have a wife and children.” One of the workers at the Borealis shipyard, Afruz, who was employed by subcontractor Irem, said he left Bangladesh on 6 December 2021. say. The smugglers demanded a lot of money for it.”We paid 8,000 euros. Some of us even paid 9,000 euros. I sold valuable things such as jewels from my wife and parcels of land.”
In Portugal I stayed in a house with 22 men, but there was only one toilet.
After several months of detours, the workers reached Portugal via India and Hungary. While traveling, workers had to surrender their passports and were held in questionable conditions. “In Portugal, we stayed in a house with 22 men. We had little money, little food, and he only had one toilet,” he says. I had no job and, as a result, no income. It was in March of this year that the worker was transferred to Belgium. I can’t even work in a comfortable environment. “We worked six days a week. He worked nine hours a day and received up to €1,100 a month, sometimes as little as €1,000,” he said. increase.
“In July, the police showed up out of the blue. They all took us in, asked us questions, took our fingerprints.” Certified. After that realization, however, Help got off to a slow start. Aid agency Payoke was overwhelmed by the size of the file. Finding help and housing for all 174 victims is difficult.
Some of the victims remained for long periods in the dilapidated buildings of the subcontractors who hired them. “Compare it to a toxic relationship where there is domestic violence and the victim continues to live with the perpetrator, simply because there is no alternative,” the unionist confides to us.
“Finally reach out to family”
As of the end of September, only 55 workers have received the coveted ‘orange cards’ or work permits. Many victims are being held in hotels. One of them said of the improvements: I left Bangladesh almost a year ago and it was very difficult to get in touch with them. ”
It’s clear what they want. It is the job. “Just let me work. We will gladly pay taxes to the Belgian government. We are experienced and know skills like welders and pipe fitters. Let us work.” No choice. “This cost a lot of money. It should pay off now. Then I can support my family there.”
Crevits: “More Resources for Aid Organizations”
In this case, 174 files were opened. Antwerp’s Labor Prosecutor has identified workers as victims of human trafficking. However, only 55 of the 174 have already obtained work permits. That is why workers are protesting in front of the Cabinet of Flemish Health Minister Hilde Krewitz (CD&V). “My clients ask the government to provide them with the support they deserve. Anyone recognized as a victim must obtain a work permit and housing. They also have to get the psychological support they need because they are traumatized,” says lawyer Jan Burens.
Krewitz’s cabinet has said it will provide additional resources to accommodate victims. Her Payoke, an aid organization, will receive funding to help victims and recruit her four additional full-time employees to process files. Antwerp’s Center for General Welfare (CAW) will add two employees. CAW is also working to expand its emergency reception capacity. From the beginning of October, an additional 24 people with precarious lives can go there