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24 Nov 2021

Ivana Jeremic, Sasa Dragojlo; BalkanInsight

Serbia: Treatment of Vietnamese workers at Chinese factory Shandong Linglong Tire Co. has all elements of exploitation & human trafficking, expert says

Mistreatment of Vietnamese Workers in Serbia ‘Criminal’, Lawyer Claims, 17 November 2021

The two NGOs...A11 and the Serbian anti-trafficking NGO ASTRA,...filed requests for an urgent reaction of state institutions in a case of potential human trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation. They previously submitted a detailed report in which they claimed that around 500 workers from Vietnam were living and working in conditions that could endanger their health and even their lives.

Serbia’s former information commissioner, lawyer Rodoljub Sabic,...said claims that Vietnamese workers hired to build a factory for Chinese tyre manufacturer Shandong Linglong Tire in Zrenjanin were true and pointed to the criminal offence of people trafficking.

The workers were officially hired by China Energy Engineering Group Tianjin Electric Power Construction Co. Ltd, registered in Belgrade. The company was hired by Shandong Ling Long Tire for the construction site of the factory in Zrenjanin.

Ling Long confirmed to BIRN that its workers are hired through China Energy Engineering Group Tianjin Electric Power Construction Co. Ltd, sending an official statement of that company denying any breach of the law, and claiming that the passports of the workers were taken only in order to obtain temporary residence and work permits, as well as preparation of documentation for their vaccination.

“The passports must be returned to the workers as soon as all the necessary permits are collected. At any given moment, if there is a need, everyone can come for their passport. There is no talk of having someone’s passport confiscated,” the company said.

The company denied that the Vietnamese workers live in poor conditions, and also said that their salaries were paid on time monthly according to the number of hours worked...

The NGOs’ report claims that the Vietnamese workers sleep in cramped dormitories, have only two toilets; lack clean and warm water;...they also lack food, causing some of them to hunt small animals nearby to eat. Their working hours are often longer then allowed under the law, their salaries often come late, and when they are paid, it is in cash. The report claims their employer does not provide personal protection equipment and deducts the costs of some of their working equipment from their salaries.

The Serbian government has been heavily promoting the factory project, despite critics accusing it of illegality, labour exploitation and potentially harming the environment, as the tyre industry is known for causing pollution...