Human trafficking in Belgian nail salons

More and more cheap nail salons in Belgium appear to be hidden places for human trafficking, undeclared work and modern slavery. Young Vietnamese, often underage, work for a starvation wage. To get to Europe, they paid thousands of euros in smuggling money to criminal networks.

Nail salons increasingly popular

The cheap budget salons are sprouting like mushrooms in Belgium – cheaper than the traditional nail salons and without an appointment. Ideal for a quick manicure. But the stories behind the people who care for your nails are sometimes grimmer than you can imagine.

“It is especially in the last three years that the cheap, mostly Vietnamese nail salons, have been on the rise”, says Mario Blokken, president of the Belgian Beauty Federation. The beauty sector is an attractive sector for criminals – people pay with cash, several people can work at the same time and it is also very easy to open a nail salon in Belgium, there are hardly any rules.

Via Russia and Eastern Europe to the ultimate destination: England

The Vietnamese workers have had a long and difficult journey before they are put to work illegally in Belgium. People smugglers recruit locally in Vietnam and promise work in the prosperous West. The amounts they have to pay for the trip vary between 10,000 and 20,000 euros, with peaks of up to 40,000 euros. Families in Vietnam take out loans locally and that money must be paid back as soon as possible by working here.

This is a summary, read the full article published by Belgian news organisation VRT here (in Dutch).

More publications on the situation of Vietnamese migrants can be found on the Lost in Europe website.

Do you want to support the journalists in their investigations? Do you have tips or evidence that can assist them in revealing more stories on human trafficking? You can reach them via this ‘tip’page.

Photo: © VRT.