Exploited migrant workers still await backpay in Borealis case

In July 2022, Belgian police discovered 174 illegally employed workers at an Antwerp factory owned by Borealis, an Austrian multinational and chemical manufacturer. The workers, primarily from Bangladesh, Turkey, and the Philippines, were recruited by an Italian recruitment agency while working in Eastern Europe. They were working as pipe-fitters and crane operators, and were reportedly paid only €8.50 an hour when the Belgian standard for this work of €18 to €24 an hour.

The case is being investigated to determine whether the workers were victims of human trafficking. In the meantime, the workers have received temporary residence and work permits.

La Strada International member Payoke in Antwerp assisted the 96 migrants (70 Filipino and 26 Bangladeshi) who were identified as victims of trafficking. The organisation helped them find work and 86 of them have now found (checked) jobs. Furthermore, Payoke is providing them with psychosocial and legal support with their residence documents and verifying contracts for work and housing.

More than a year after the case was uncovered, there is still no final determination in the case and no accountability from Borealis and the other employers, or the recruitment agencies.

See an in-depth report by the Philippine new website Rappler into the situation of the Filipino workers in the case: part 1 and part 2.

See an update by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, which asked the companies in the case to respond to the allegations here.