More than a hundred victims of the human trafficking file at the Antwerp Borealis wharf took action on Monday at Payoke’s office on Italylei. The activists hope that a solution will be found for the hopeless situation in which they find themselves.
Today at 12:06
Since this newspaper reported at the end of July that dozens of Filipino and Bangladeshi workers were being economically exploited by a (sub)contractor on the construction site of chemical giant Borealis in Kallo, the ball has started to roll. It turned out that there were many more victims than initially thought. They all obtained the provisional status of ‘victim of human trafficking’ and are received by the city of Antwerp.
So much for the good news, because many of them do not have a residence or work permit and are therefore in a seemingly hopeless situation. Some of the victims already obtained this status, but the majority still have not. Monday in front of Payoke’s office, which cares about the fate of the victims, they demand a structural solution to their predicament. “Don’t forget us”, they chanted.
Returning to their homeland is not one of those solutions for them. “Going back is not an option. We are in great danger in our homeland.” The activists fear reprisals from Irem, the Borealis contractor who they believe is responsible for their misery. “Irem is dangerous and could harm us,” said one of the activists.
Payoke: “We are the only ones committed to victims”
Klaus Vanhoutte, director of Payoke understands the protest. “It is now time for the governments in this country to release resources to help these people. We have been screaming for that for months now.” Vanhoutte regrets that the action continues in front of Payoke. “We are the only ones, along with the other aid centers, who are committed to the victims day and night. With more resources, we could solve this crisis much faster.”
Jan Buelens, lawyer for the victims, clarifies that the action is not directed against Payoke. “This place is symbolic for us because Payoke is the point of contact for the victims. But we do focus on the government. It is now up to the government to take action.”