The Federal Police has recently shown concern over the sexual and economic exploitation of Chinese people in Belgium, particularly within Chinese networks. The exploitation is said to be spreading all over the country.
Eric Garbar, the Head of the Human Trafficking Cell in the Federal Police, sounded the alarm bell in the human trafficking committee of the federal parliament. “It concerns sexual exploitation, but there are also cases of economic exploitation,” said Garbar.
The main victims are adult women who enter Belgium with false papers and intermediaries, according to police sources. They rely on Chinese networks upon their arrival and often end up working as prostitutes or workers in shops, catering establishments and massage parlours.
“It’s getting worse, certainly in large cities such as Brussels, Liège, Antwerp and Ghent,” it sounds. “The victims often cannot even read or write.”
The Belgian federal migration centre, Myria, confirms that Chinese human trafficking in Belgium is “clearly on the rise”, based on discussions with care providers in the field.
And the victims are vulnerable, as they are mainly recruited by networks in China. “They are poorly educated and often cannot even read or write,” says Klaus Vanhoutte, Director of Payoke, an anti-trafficking NGO. “Once they arrive in Belgium, they are completely dependent on their Chinese social network.”
Sarah De Hovre, Director of the Brussels aid organisation Pag-Asa, agrees that the victims are “easy prey”. They often pay large sums of money to get to Belgium, and will pay off that debt by working for free.
The main sectors that see Chinese people exploited are Asian restaurants and massage parlours, according to De Hovre. But prostitution is rife too, especially in the red light district of Brussels – near the Gare du Nord Station in the Alhambra Quarter.
“We have been seeing an increase in Chinese sex workers there for some time now,” says Vanhoutte.