December 7, 2021
Vietnamese workers at Chinese factory in Serbia cry for help

Vietnamese workers at Chinese factory in Serbia cry for help

ZRENJANIN, Serbia — They’re shivering in barracks with out warmth, going hungry and haven’t any cash. They are saying their passports have been taken by their Chinese employer and that they’re now caught in a grim plainland in Serbia with no help from native authorities.

The challenge, which Serbian and Chinese officers tout as a show of the “strategic partnership” between the 2 international locations, has already confronted scrutiny from environmentalists over probably harmful air pollution from tire manufacturing.

Now, it has caught the eye of human rights teams in Serbia, which have warned that the workers might be victims of human trafficking and even slavery.

“We are witnessing a breach of human rights because the Vietnamese (workers) are working in terrible conditions,” Serbian activist Miso Zivanov of the Zrenjaninska Akcija (Zrenjanin Motion) nongovernmental group instructed The Related Press at the drab one-story warehouses the place the workers reside.

“Their passports and identification documents have been taken by their Chinese employers,” he mentioned. “They have been here since May, and they received only one salary. They are trying to get back to Vietnam but first need to get back their documents.”

Workers sleep on bunk beds with out mattresses in barracks with no heating or heat water. They instructed the AP that they’ve acquired no medical care even after they developed COVID-19-like signs, being instructed by their managers merely to stay in their rooms.

Nguyen Van Tri, one of many workers, mentioned nothing has been fulfilled from the job contract he signed in Vietnam earlier than embarking on the lengthy journey to Serbia.

“Since we arrived here, nothing is good,” he said. “Everything is different from documents we signed in Vietnam. Life is bad, food, medicine, water … everything is bad.”

Carrying sandals and shivering in the chilly, he mentioned about 100 of his fellow workers who dwell in the identical barracks have gone on strike to protest their plight and that a few of them have been fired due to that.

Linglong didn’t reply to an AP name in search of remark however denied to Serbian media that the corporate is accountable for the workers, blaming their scenario on subcontractors and job companies in Vietnam. It mentioned the corporate didn’t make use of the Vietnamese workers in the primary place. It promised to return the paperwork it mentioned have been taken to stamp work and residency permits.

The corporate denied that the Vietnamese workers reside in poor circumstances and mentioned their month-to-month salaries have been paid in accordance with the variety of working hours.

Populist-run Serbia is a key spot for China’s enlargement and funding insurance policies in Europe, and Chinese corporations have saved a good lid on their initiatives amid studies they run afoul of the Balkan nation’s anti-pollution legal guidelines and labor rules.

Chinese banks have granted billions of {dollars} in loans to Serbia to finance Chinese corporations that construct highways, railways and factories and make use of their very own building workers. This isn’t the primary time rights teams have identified attainable breaches of workers’ rights, together with these of Chinese miners at a copper mine in japanese Serbia.

After days of silence, Serbian officers spoke towards “inhumane” circumstances at the development website however have been fast to downplay Chinese accountability for the workers’ plight.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic mentioned she “would not rule out that the attack against the Linglong factory” is organized “by those against Chinese investments” in Serbia — referring to frequent criticism from the West that Chinese initiatives there should not clear, are ecologically questionable and are designed by Beijing to unfold its political affect in Europe.

“At the beginning, it was the environment. Now they forgot that and they focused on workers there. After tomorrow there will be something else,” she mentioned.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic mentioned Friday {that a} Serbian labor inspector has been despatched to the Linglong building website however was blunt on the anticipated final result of the eventual findings.

“What do they need? Do they need us to destroy a 900 million-dollar funding?” Vucic requested.

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