Flanders wants stricter action against human trafficking

Flanders wants stricter action against abuse with economic migration and posting. According Flemish Minister of Work Jo Brouns, the human trafficking case involving the chemical company Borealis shows that there is a potential danger of exploitation and abuse in all sectors. Brouns says the Flemish Social Inspectorate does not always have the right tools to act performantly and wants to change this.

In the first place, Brouns advocates greater responsibility for principals and contractors. This should prevent companies working through subcontracts from evading liability. Today, they can contractually stipulate that they are not responsible for infringements made by a subcontractor. This implies that they cannot be sued even if the main contractor was found out. Minister Brouns wants to remove that option to contractually exclude liability.

Secondly he thinks fines should also be increased. Today, a company can be fined between €1,800 and €18,000 per undocumented worker. Flanders wants these fines to match federal legislation. For instance, in the Social Penal Code, administrative fines are between €300 and €3,000, an amount you have to multiply by factor 8, the so-called opdeciemen.

Moreover, extra attention goes to handling files of large applicants for labour cards. Within the economic migration section of the Department of Work and Social Economy, a cell will be set up to deal with such large applications. Additional staff (3 FTEs) are being recruited for this purpose. A new unit - and extra staff - will also be set up within the Flemish Social Inspectorate, which should significantly increase the number of checks.

"We have an overview of every foreign worker who is employed with a work permit. However, they often do not dare raise the alarm in case of exploitation, because of the power relations with their employer. With a proactive approach, we can make great strides here", says Minister Brouns.

Brouns also hopes that the sectors will react alertly to situations of unfair competition. This can be done through awareness-raising activities and cooperation with the inspection services. In the event of serious offences by an employer, the victims will be referred to the VDAB. This can guide them to new work.


© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK - Site of Borealis chemical company in Antwerp harbour. The chemical company Borealis ​ suspended its contract with the contractor IREM-Ponticelli, which managed the construction site in the port of Antwerp where 174 potential victims of human trafficking have been identified.

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