Human trafficking victims from Antwerp construction site stage protest

Human trafficking victims from Antwerp construction site stage protest
Borealis company in port of Antwerp. Credit: Belga/Yorick Jansens

Following the discovery of human trafficking at the Borealis chemical plant in Antwerp, dozens of trafficking victims have staged a protest at the office of Payoke, an anti-trafficking NGO, in Antwerp. The Bangladeshi and Turkish workers say that returning to the country of origin is a 'death sentence', reported De Morgen.

"We have been waiting for two months," said a Bangladeshi man who worked with welding for the Italian company Irem, which hired people from Borealis to work in the port of Antwerp. "We have had no income for two months. Nobody helps us. We need an orange card from the government so we can put our skills to work."

According to lawyer and professor of employment law at the University of Anterwerp, Jan Buelens – known to have aided almost one hundred victims – states that the workers are at their wits' end. "This cannot last a day longer," said Buelens. "The Turkish people are still in the apartments where Irem put them. The government has been delaying for a long time and now it is up to them to get them out of this dire situation."

Help urgently needed

Some of the protesting workers' colleagues contacted the media and were helped to get their story covered, according to Buelens.

Reportedly, the group still needs to receive their wages, from which their rental costs may be deducted in the future. "Two months after they were discovered, there is still no help for 119 of the 174 victims. Only 55 of them have already been helped," said Buelens.

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"For the workmen, going back is signing their own death warrant," Buelens said.

If the government still will not provide aid and papers, there are still actions to take. "However, the solution is simple," said the lawyer.

"If the government issues them a residence document, the so-called orange card to which these victims are entitled and which the 55 others have received in a month, they can find a new home and work."

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