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Good job on a long stick

21.12.2008, Source: Politika

Construction workers are usually attracted with good job offers in Russia and Dubai, while in Italy and Greece “great salary” is offered on the commercial orchards.

Looking for a job, we usually do not see the entire picture. Captivated with the promises and the alleged good salary many workers can only dream about in Serbia, more and more men decide to go to the “Promised Land”. In the end, they are only being manipulated and deceived.
Through certain firms they go to United Arabian Emirates (UAE), Russia or Italy, where they are left with no documents and money; some of them are even arrested for working on black market. Due to inhuman conditions in which they live, hard physical work on constructions up to 15 hours per day and malnutrition, most of them face serious health issues.
In organizing such inhuman business arrangement dozens of people is involved – those who are in Serbia and those in charge of reception and treatment of people after they come to the Promise Land. At first sight everything looks legal – enterprises are registered, they offer good conditions for lodgment and work, legal job and attractive salary.
Snežana Elez, police officer in the department of boarder police in the Ministry of internal affaires, says for “Politika” that victims of human trafficking for the purpose of labor exploitation in the cases that have been processed so far were mostly family men, who responded to announcements for physical jobs due to poverty and loss of job. For work on constructions, the most usual destinations are Russian Federation and Dubai in the UAE, while in Italy and Greece, most usual jobs are those in orchards.
Serbian police solved last year one of the largest cases of organized trafficking for labor exploitation.
It involved the firm who offered well paid jobs in Dubai for construction workers through announcements and Internet. They offered monthly salary from 1.200 to 1.600 US dollars, regulated employment, good accommodation in apartments in a hotel, even a cook from Serbia. Interested persons had to pay a membership fee of 500 RS dinars, and to cover travel and visa expenses of approximately 400 EUR. They went in groups of 30 and 400 people, legally with tourist visa.
At the Dubai airport they met owner of local firm who was in contact with the organizers from Belgrade. He took their passports on the pretext that he needs their documents in order to obtain working documents for workers.
– Instead in hotel apartments, people were transferred to the suburb of Dubai where they have lived in inhuman conditions, in bungalows and weekend cottages. In one room 20 to 40 persons were lodged, with only one bathroom. They have been working on the constructions, split up on artificial islands, in very hard conditions.
Usually, such jobs are conducted by Indians, Bangladeshi, Chinese and Serbians in Dubai, while Arabs are solely chiefs – says our collocutor from the Police.
After this shock, difficulties only continued one after another. They have been working over 15 hours per day, without break, meal or cigarette. They lived with money they have brought from Serbia, and they hardly managed to get some food. When they started complaining, they were threatened: “We will send you to war in Iraq…and your families will be looking for you”.
Individuals who were sick of everything, decided to go to inspector in Dubai’s Ministry of Labor. Still, the firm they have been working through in Dubai was connected with the officials. Ministry of labor spoke with them and told them they can receive 400 $ and go home legally, otherwise they will be reported to the police.
Some “rebels” went to the police which reported violation of working engagement without required license.
– Nine of them was punished to 20 days in prison, and then deported to Belgrade. One of them spoke to media, based on which the case was discovered – explains our collocutor.
Belgrade firm who was intermediary in providing this job was registered in National Agency for economic register, but they did not have the license from the Ministry of economy and regional development for the activity they have been conducting. In their premises, the Police found photocopies of the passports and worker’s employment booklets for 150 to 200 people. Number of discovered victims was 30 in the last year.
After one month work on the case, police brought criminal charges against six persons, five identified from Serbia and one unknown Jordanian. They are all in hiding and police posted wanted circular.
Our collocutor says that it is hard to discover and prove such labor and inhuman exploitation:
– In order to discover human trafficking, we need cooperation between government, non-governmental organizations and media. Prevention is best in the sense that people should be explained that they have to check the advertisement and firms. In the process, the most important is witness testify – points out Elez.

Domestic work and prostitution
For the first 11 months of this year, police didn’t record any case similar to this from last year in Dubai or Russia. However, they have discovered three victims of labor exploitation. In one case in South Serbia, for four years a man was exploiting two girls who just turned 18 by using force, threats and misuse of their trust. He forced them into prostitution and domestic labor at the same time. In one other case, a man forced foreign citizen into domestic labor and he abused her, all the time promising that he will marry her.

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