Poland launching probe over cheated Chinese workers

26th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Complaining that they had received no help from the Chinese embassy in Warsaw, around 50 workers pitched camp several days ago on the mission's front lawn.

Warsaw -- Polish authorities said last week that they had launched a probe amid a sit-in protest in Warsaw by dozens of Chinese workers who claim they have been denied wages and abandoned by labour agents.

"We're in the process of identifying the employer who hired the Chinese and we're going to start inspection procedures," national labour bureau spokeswoman Danuta Rutkowska told AFP.

Complaining that they had received no help from the Chinese embassy in Warsaw, around 50 workers pitched camp several days ago on the mission's front lawn.

Living under tents made from sheets, tarpaulins and cardboard, they have survived thanks to the generosity of passersby.

"This is pretty typical of the attitude of the Chinese authorities," claimed Adama Koziel of the Helsinki Foundation, a human rights group.

He alleged that China allowed workers to be sent abroad, then washed its hands of them.

"They wait for the workers' visas to expire, and for them to be expelled at the expense of the Polish state," Koziel told AFP.

"Polish law has a very limited definition of trafficking," Shivaun Scanlan, a senior advisor with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

"Poland is also aware of this sort of scenario affecting its nationals but they haven't necessarily sort of addressed it here," she said.

At the protest camp a man who identified himself as Lim, a tile-layer, had told AFP on Wednesday in broken Polish and English that the group was paid only for a short time after having arrived from China in March.

"We have no pay in three months. No work from June 24. We are homeless," he said, adding he and the other protesters lacked the funds to return home.

Hailing from southeast China, the workers said they had been hired by Heyly, a Chinese company, and its Polish partners to work on various residential construction sites in the capital Warsaw.

Contact details, including a telephone number, for Heyly provided to AFP by the workers match those of Fujian Heyly Overseas Employment Co. Ltd, which describes itself on its website as "a licensed overseas employment agency approved by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of China."

The website also states that among other activities, the company is involved in "recruiting and recommending domestic labourers to work abroad."

The company could not be contacted and China's labour ministry refused to comment.

AFP/Expatica

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