A picture shows the construction site of a Borealis chemical company plant in Antwerp harbour, on August 3, 2022. - Borealis has suspended until further notice its contract with the contractor IREM-Ponticelli, which managed the construction site in the port of Antwerp where 55 workers have been discovered as potential victims of human trafficking. The workers, mainly Filipino and some Bangladeshi, are suspected to have been working in a situation of slavery. (Photo by NICOLAS MAETERLINCK / BELGA / AFP) / Belgium OUT

Scores of workers at a construction site in Belgium are believed to have become victims of human trafficking. A total of 174 people have been identified in the context so far, the responsible public prosecutor’s office in Antwerp announced on Wednesday.

According to the information, they worked on a construction site of the Austrian chemical company Borealis in the Antwerp port area. The number of possible victims could change in the course of the investigation, it said.

Belgian media reported on the case last week. However, the number of possible victims was initially much smaller. The Belgian news agency Belga wrote that the workers had to work six days a week for a wage of up to 650 euros a month – mostly without a work permit.

The public prosecutor’s office is now investigating alleged violations of Belgian labor laws. Several workers have been given provisional status as victims of human trafficking, it said. They come from Turkey and the Philippines, among others, and can now receive a certificate so that they can continue to work in Belgium.