Yorick Jansens

Ukrainian human trafficking victims that worked at Antwerp building site “put under pressure” to leave Belgium

The solicitor that is representing a group of Ukrainians that worked on a building site in the port of Antwerp says that their employer, the Italian building contractor Irem, put his clients under pressure to leave Belgium. 

Irem stands accused of human trafficking and economic exploitation after it emerged that it had put foreign workers to work for extremely low wages and in poor conditions at a site where a new production facility is being built for the chemicals company Borealis.

It is now claimed that Irem exerted pressure on workers that had been the victims of the exploitation to move to Hungary to prevent them from testifying against the company. The solicitor that represents around a dozen of the workers plans to take the evidence he has obtained from his clients to the police, the Labour Inspectorate and the Labour Auditor.  

He says that around 50 workers were forced to sign papers in dubious conditions inside an underground carpark. "They (the company) told the workers that their work permit had expired and that they could only be given work in Hungary. They were told to sign a document that said that they were prepared to give up their statuary rights. Most of them signed”.

The invesigation into malpractice by the Italian company Irem at the Borealis site has meant that almost all work at the site has stopped. The Filipino and Bangladeshis that had been working at the site have been granted the status of “victims of human trafficking”. However, around 50 Ukrainian that were also working there were theoretically still employed by Irem. The solicitor says that they were put under pressure to move to Hungary. 36 of them signed the letter, 14 others refused.

VRT News asked Irem for a reaction to the new allegations. However, we are still awaiting an answer. 

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