17 detained in investigation into Vietnamese human trafficking

Seventeen suspects were detained on 22 April as part of an investigation into a Vietnamese criminal organisation running nail salons, the Brussels labour inspectorate said on Wednesday.

The suspects were detained for their alleged involvement in human trafficking and smuggling. Six were placed under arrest by an investigating judge and 11 were released under conditions.

In the same investigation, nine nail salons were also shut down, and 12 people were detained over their residency status.

Paid far below minimum wage

The suspected victims of the trafficking ring are mainly from Nghe An province in north-central Vietnam, said Valentina Marocchi, deputy labour inspector and press officer.

"After paying a large sum of money to the organisation, which has branches in several countries, this organisation allegedly organised the Vietnamese's journey to Belgium through several 'routes'," Marocchi said.

"Once in Belgium, the victims were allegedly housed and put to work in nail studios controlled by the organisation," she said. The victims were paid far below the legal minimum wage, and only after they had paid off all their debts.

Residency documents

The organisation is said to have arranged residency documents for the victims, through asylum or family reunification. Some people were allegedly only in transit to England. The organisation was also involved in money laundering.

Numerous inspections carried out during the investigation revealed the presence of illegal workers and minors in the nail salons. Working conditions, wages and hygiene were not respected and non-compliant products were used in the salons.


Illustrative image © PHOTO ANGELA WEISS / AFP

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