Brothers accused of exploiting refugees

Lady Justice (Picture: Twitter/@danvelton). (Lady Justice (Picture: Twitter/@danvelton))

The trial against four brothers accused of exploiting refugees in a laundromat in Zaandam in 2016, started on Thursday. The refugees were paid very little, had to work very long hours, and were sometimes forced to spend the night in the laundromat, Het Parool reports.

The authorities first noticed that all was not right in the laundromat in May 2016. Police officers went into the laundromat one morning and found six Syrians sleeping or working among piles of washing. The police confirmed that they were refugees - asylum seekers granted a residency permit - and left again. After three reports to the anonymous crime hotline two months later, the police placed surveillance around the laundromat and closed it shortly thereafter.

During the surveillance, the police noticed that the workers spent the night in the laundromat on a regular basis. Investigation revealed that they were allowed to sleep there, if they worked an hour without pay. They regularly worked until 9:00 p.m., and a few times even as late as 4:00 a.m. When the police raided the laundromat in 2016, they found large numbers of mice in the building, and cameras used to watch the workers from the office. 

The Public Prosecutor's evidence includes statements from at least eight refugees from various countries, according to Noord Hollands Dagblad. One told the police that they were paid 4.50 euros per hour, and that their money was often given to them late to force them to come back to work. They were instructed to tell anyone who asked that they were paid 10 euros per hour. 

The four brothers deny involvement in exploiting these refugees. "It's not my responsibility, I only work there", one said to the court in Amsterdam on Thursday, according to Het Parool. What happened in the laundromat had nothing to do with them, is their defense. The brothers claim that a Hungarian referred to as Gabi or Gabor was in charge of the laundromat. The police could find no trace of such a man, and the brothers themselves put no effort into finding him.