Illegal newcomers can achieve legal status if they help to find people behind “modern slavery”

Victims of economic exploitation staying illegally in Belgium can achieve a legal status if they help to find the people behind the system. This was said by Asylum Secretary Sammy Mahdi after a documentary by the VRT’s current affairs flagship “Pano” about modern slavery.

The documentary told the story of John. He has been living in Belgium for 10 years now, but never obtained a legal status. He managed to find a job by ‘renting’ somebody else’s ID card, as a Belgian passport opened many doors in temping agencies.

However, if he wants to rent an ID card, he has to pay the owner money, about one third of his earnings. And he hardly has any control over his own money, since the cash goes directly to the owner’s bank account. This triggers more problems as the ID card owner sometimes keeps more cash behind than promised. John claims a lot of people are being exploited like this in Belgium. He had to combine two jobs to survive in this type of “modern slavery”.

Samy Mehdi told the VRT this morning that he doesn’t know the scope of the problem, but he calls on victims to speak out and to help the Belgian authorities to find those behind the scam. This may actually help them, he adds: “It can help them to obtain a legal status in Belgium in the end.”

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