Vietnamese employees at Chinese manufacturing facility in Serbia cry for assist

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ZRENJANIN, Serbia (AP) They are shivering in barracks with out warmth, going hungry and haven’t any cash. They say their passports had been taken through their Chinese employer and that they’re now caught in a grim plainland in Serbia without a assist from native government.

These are the Vietnamese employees who’re serving to construct the primary Chinese automotive tire manufacturing facility in Europe. The Associated Press visited the development web site in northern Serbia the place some 500 of the employees reside in harsh prerequisites as Chinas Shandong Linglong Tire Co. units up the large facility.

The undertaking, which Serbian and Chinese officers tout as a show of the strategic partnership between the 2 nations, has already confronted scrutiny from environmentalists over doubtlessly bad air pollution from tire manufacturing.

Now, it has stuck the eye of human rights teams in Serbia, that have warned that the employees may well be sufferers of human trafficking and even slavery.

We are witnessing a breach of human rights for the reason that Vietnamese (employees) are operating in horrible prerequisites, Serbian activist Miso Zivanov of the Zrenjaninska Akcija (Zrenjanin Action) nongovernmental group informed The Associated Press on the drab one-story warehouses the place the employees reside.

Their passports and id paperwork had been taken through their Chinese employers, he mentioned. They had been right here since May, and so they won just one wage. They are looking to get again to Vietnam however first wish to get again their paperwork.

Workers sleep on bunk beds with out mattresses in barracks without a heating or heat water. They informed the AP that they have got won no hospital treatment even if they evolved COVID-19-like signs, being informed through their managers merely to stay of their rooms.

Nguyen Van Tri, one of the crucial employees, mentioned not anything has been fulfilled from the process contract he signed in Vietnam ahead of embarking at the lengthy adventure to Serbia.

Since we arrived right here, not anything is excellent,” he said. Everything is different from documents we signed in Vietnam. Life is bad, food, medicine, water everything is bad.

Wearing sandals and shivering in the cold, he said about 100 of his fellow workers who live in the same barracks have gone on strike to protest their plight and that some of them have been fired because of that.

Linglong did not respond to an AP call seeking comment but denied to Serbian media that the company is responsible for the workers, blaming their situation on subcontractors and job agencies in Vietnam. It said the company did not employ the Vietnamese workers in the first place. It promised to return the documents it said were taken to stamp work and residency permits.

The company denied that the Vietnamese workers are living in poor conditions and said their monthly salaries were paid in accordance with the number of working hours.

Populist-run Serbia is a key spot for Chinas expansion and investment policies in Europe, and Chinese companies have kept a tight lid on their projects amid reports they run afoul of the Balkan nations anti-pollution laws and labor regulations.

Chinese banks have granted billions of dollars in loans to Serbia to finance Chinese companies that build highways, railways and factories and employ their own construction workers. This is not the first time rights groups have pointed out possible breaches of workers rights, including those of Chinese miners at a copper mine in eastern Serbia.

After days of silence, Serbian officials spoke against inhumane conditions at the construction site but were quick to downplay Chinese responsibility for the workers plight.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said 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 projects there are not transparent, are ecologically questionable and are designed by Beijing to spread its political influence 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 said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Friday that a Serbian labor inspector has been sent to the Linglong construction site but was blunt on the expected outcome of the eventual findings.

What do they want? Do they want us to destroy a 900 million-dollar investment?” Vucic requested.

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