Vietnamese workers plead for help at a Chinese factory in Serbia, where they are subject to harsh working conditions, reports say

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Vietnamese workers plead for help at a Chinese factory in Serbia, where they are subject to harsh working conditions, reports say
A Vietnamese worker on the Shandong Linglong construction site in Serbia.AP
  • Vietnamese workers at a factory in Serbia said their passports have been taken, AP reported.
  • The workers are based at the Chinese-owned Shandong Linglong Tire Co.

Around 500 construction workers recruited from Vietnam are working in harsh conditions as they build the first Chinese tire factory in Serbia, AP reported.

The site run by the Chinese Shandong Linglong Tire Co is 50 kilometers north of Belgrade, near the Serbian town of Zrenjanin.

AP reporters, who traveled to Serbia to visit the site, said activists discussed the working conditions with them.

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"We are witnessing a breach of human rights because the Vietnamese (workers) are working in terrible conditions," Serbian activist Miso Zivanov of the Zrenjaninska Akcija (Zrenjanin Action) nongovernmental organization told AP.

The outlet reported that the workers were cold, hungry, and had been left without any money.

The workers said their Chinese employers took their passports and withheld wages, according to AP. There were no mattresses available, and no hot water or heating in the workers' freezing barracks, it added.

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Human rights groups in Serbia have warned that the workers could be victims of human trafficking or even slavery, according to AP.

Nguyen Van Tri, an employee at the site, told AP: "Since we arrived here, nothing is good. Everything is different from documents we signed in Vietnam. Life is bad, food, medicine, water … everything is bad."

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic said he would try to help the Vietnamese workers but would not shut down the factory's construction because it is so difficult to get companies' investments.

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Neither Insider nor AP received a response to requests for comment from Linglong.

The Chinese company told Serbian media that it was not responsible for hiring the Vietnamese workers, per AP. It also said that the passports would be returned immediately, having only been taken to stamp for work visas, according to AP's report.

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