Q&A: The toolbox against human trafficking

International recruiting can be treacherous territory, with different faces, some less trustworthy than others. But know that you have the power to make sure you are only dealing with the right face.

Link2Europe therefore came up with a webinar that helps you guard against human trafficking. We proposed 'The Toolbox Against Human Trafficking' for, full of little checks and simple tips that will bring you security. In this blog, we briefly list all the questions with their answers that Anton and Igor received at the end of the webinar.

Q: How can I be sure that my partner meets all the requirements and acts correctly?  

Anton: Here are some steps to consider: 

  • Communications: Open and honest communication with your partner is essential. Talk to them about your concerns and expectations regarding ethical conduct and compliance with the law. 
  • Knowledge and awareness: Make sure you are both well aware of the relevant laws and regulations regarding human trafficking in your country or region. This can help you avoid any misunderstandings. 
  • Collaboration with experts: If you have concerns about your partner's activities, consider consulting legal advisors or experts who specialize in the relevant area of law. They can help you assess whether your partner meets all legal requirements. 
  • Monitoring and documentation: It is important to keep all relevant documentation and agreements related to your partner's activities. This can help demonstrate compliance with the law and avoid legal problems. 
  • Notification of suspicious activity: If you suspect that your partner is involved in illegal activities such as human trafficking, you should report it to the relevant law enforcement agencies. Your cooperation can help combat such serious crimes. 

Q: Clearly, a contract does not always turn out to be foolproof?  

Anton: A contract with a subcontractor may be legally watertight but it is important that it is also checked on the shop floor. Expensive law firms will obviously assist you in a good agreement between you as the user (general contractor or client) and the possible subcontractor, to avoid that in case of possible violations, you are responsible. However, know that chain liability applies and that the client/main contractor can always be liable for errors throughout the chain below. 

Inspections will initially look at whether what goes on in practice is in regulation. Do the external employees have their own clothing, how are they managed, do they decide on their own vacations, are their wages paid correctly, do they have the right documents. Your contract may still be so watertight in theory, if these things turn out to be wrong, you may still be liable.  

Q: Specifically, how can we verify that partners are paying our employees correctly? 

Anton: While you as an employer may not be a formal inspector and do not have the authority to conduct official inspections, there are steps you can take to ensure that your employees are paid correctly and feel valued. 

  • Direct communication: Building an open and trusting relationship with your employees is critical. Dare to have a direct conversation with them about issues related to their pay and general well-being.
  • Awareness of rights: Make sure your employees are aware of their employment rights and the contents of their employment contract. This will help them understand what they should expect and receive according to their contract.  
  • Indirect Approach: You can approach sensitive issues such as pay discreetly by inquiring about their general well-being. Ask how their housing, health and family are doing. This kind of conversation can help you better understand your employees' situation. 
  • Family Circumstances: Many workers abroad send part of their income to their family in their country of origin. This can create financial pressures. It is helpful to understand how their family is doing and if there are any pressing financial needs that may affect their wages. 
  • Confidentiality: Ensure that conversations remain confidential and that employees feel comfortable talking openly. Respect their privacy and sensitivities. 

Q: The above are good tips, but often they don't speak English, French or Dutch, so filtering out from a daily conversation whether everything is okay with their pay and housing is difficult.

Anton: Understandably, there may be legal constraints and language barriers to directly monitoring the wage and housing conditions of foreign employees. Instead, there are alternative approaches to creating awareness and increasing employee engagement: 

  • QR codes and multilingual information: You might consider using QR codes that employees can scan. These codes can direct them to Web pages with relevant information about their rights and working conditions in their own language. This can help them better understand their rights. 
  • Auditory tools: Providing auditory tools, such as recorded messages or spoken information in different languages, can be an effective way to make employees aware of their rights and inform them how to report any concerns. 
  • Anonymous reporting channels: Establish anonymous reporting channels where workers can report any concerns about their wages, housing or other issues without revealing their identity.
  • Training and awareness: Offer regular training and awareness programs for your employees, explaining their rights and responsibilities. Use visual aids and simple, understandable language to facilitate communication. 
  • Collaboration with community organizations: Work with local community organizations and language support services to facilitate communication and ensure that your foreign employees have access to needed information.  

Q: How can we help people who are in this situation?  

Anton: Report possible abuse to organizations such as payoke or social inspection. They can judge in an objective and professional manner what the situation is and how further care/employment can be done. 

And be vigilant! (Too) Cheap labor/bids can be a first sign. No disclosure when it comes to wages or clarity on payments or housing can already raise suspicion. Consider before you begin!

Q: What about people who turn out to be illegal in Belgium, but we as a company find out late? Do the employees then have to go back home? What if we did intend to act correctly? Can they then continue to work

Anton: The situation is nuanced: 

  • When it comes to human trafficking, victims typically receive a special statute assigned. Within this status, there is stabilization of their residence situation and the possibility of continuing to work in Belgium. This means that it is not necessary for these people to return to their country of origin. 
  • However, a potential problem may arise when someone applies for this status. It requires them to sever ties with the network of those involved in human trafficking. As a business, it is crucial to make it clear that you are not part of this network of traffickers, or "the perpetrators." It is essential to avoid ambiguity about commitment, because the award of the statute may depend on it. 

Q: From which regions do the perpetrators of human trafficking mainly operate? Are these Eastern European organizations more common or is it more often from outside Europe

Anton: Several criminal networks operate from Eastern Europe, but perpetrator networks also operate from other regions. Their activities extend far beyond the borders of Europe. It is important to note that these networks do not form one cohesive organization. They can be compared to a kind of criminal version of LinkedIn, on which they communicate and cooperate for a variety of purposes. They are particularly interested in activities where cheap labor is available, sometimes even from distant regions such as Asia and Africa.  
With advancing globalization, these criminal networks have increased their scope significantly expanded. This has led to a wider range of offender contexts and activities. 

Do you still have questions or are you thinking of recruiting internationally but want assurance from your chosen partner? Link2Europe has been linking foreign, experienced talent to Belgian vacancies for more than 15 years. Contact us and see what we can do for the growth of your business.  

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