Tuesday, September 26

Human rights groups in Serbia fear Chinese factory workers may be trafficked

Vietnamese workers helping to build the first Chinese car tire factory in Europe tremble in unheated barracks, go hungry, have no money and no help from local authorities.

About 500 of the workers live in harsh conditions in northern Serbia while China’s Shandong Linglong Tire Co. builds a huge factory.

The project, which Serbian and Chinese officials have promoted as a show of the “strategic partnership” between the two countries, has already faced scrutiny from environmentalists for potentially dangerous contamination from tire production.

Now, it has drawn the attention of human rights groups in Serbia, who have warned that workers could be victims of human trafficking or even slavery.

“We are witnessing a human rights violation,” Serbian activist Miso Zivanov of the NGO Zrenjaninska Akcija (Zrenjanin Action) told The Associated Press in front of one of the warehouses where the workers lived.

“Chinese employers have taken away their passports and identity documents,” he said. “They have been here since May and received only one salary,” he said.

Workers sleep in bunk beds without mattresses in barracks without heat or hot water.

They told the AP that they had not received medical attention, even when they developed symptoms similar to COVID-19, and their managers told them to just stay in their rooms.

Nguyen Van Tri, one of the workers, said that nothing has been fulfilled with the employment contract he signed in Vietnam, including wages.

“We have a big problem,” he said, “There is no electricity, there is no water and there is no salary.”

Also Read  What we know about motive

Wearing sandals and shivering from the cold, around 100 of his co-workers who live in the same barracks have gone on strike to protest their plight.

Some of them have been fired as a result.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday that the government will try to help Vietnamese workers, but will not disperse investors, as it is “very hard work” to attract investors to Serbia.

Linglong did not respond to an AP call seeking comment, but denied to Serbian media that the company is responsible for the workers, blaming subcontractors and employment agencies in Vietnam for their plight.

He said the company did not employ Vietnamese workers in the first place.

He promised to return the documents that were allegedly taken to seal the work and residence permits.

The company denied that Vietnamese workers lived in poor conditions and said that their monthly wages were paid according to the number of hours worked.

Populist-run Serbia is a key locus for China’s expansion and investment policies in Europe, and Chinese companies have kept their projects strict amid reports breaking the nation’s anti-pollution laws and labor regulations. Balkan.

Chinese banks have made billions of euros in loans to Serbia to finance Chinese companies that build roads, railways and factories and employ their own construction workers.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *