One more step towards addressing forced labour in supply chains: European Parliament’s Committee adoption of amended forced labour regulation
17 October 2023
Brussels, Belgium – Today we are one step closer to stopping the flow of goods made with forced labour from being traded in the EU. The European Parliament’s Internal Market and Internal Trade Committees, that both lead on the file, have adopted their position on a proposed forced labour regulation. The vote yesterday was an important step in enacting legislation to address forced labour, and prevent the EU from becoming a dumping ground for goods made with forced labour.
Around the world, an estimated 17.3 million people are in forced labour in the private sector. And 3.9 million people are estimated to be in state-imposed forced labour. Products made with forced labour end up in the hands and homes of consumers every day without their knowledge. Today’s vote is a strong step to address both forced labour in Private supply chains and state-imposed forced labour.
The two lead Parliamentary committees have addressed several shortcomings to the Commission’s proposal originally published in September 2022. The Parliament proposes that the European Commission should equally act as an enforcer, take a central role in receiving complaints and play a more active coordinating role. Complaints will also remain confidential, protecting complainants who raise concerns, wherever they are based.
The Parliament also addressed a major critique of the initial Commission proposal. Initially, the criteria for lifting a ban was only to show that there was no longer any forced labour. However, the Parliament rightly considers it essential for victims to be made whole and the provision of full remedy to victims is now needed as an additional condition to lift any ban.
The Parliament adds importantly that for products from industries in areas where there is credible evidence that labour has been imposed by the state, the competent authority (at Commission and/or member state level) may presume those products are made by forced labour. This would reverse the procedure and companies in these cases would need to prove their products were made without forced labour.
However, the core of the proposal, namely the investigation leading to bans of goods made with forced labour, has not improved sufficiently. Though the Parliament considers that due diligence can no longer be used as a defence against an investigation, at the same time, the Parliament introduced a seemingly unrealistic short deadline to prove forced labour has occurred. In addition, the evidence required to start an investigation and to ban a product remains impractically high.
The Council must now agree its position swiftly if we hope to see this law become a reality.
“While the Parliament proposes many improvements such as the provision of remedy, it fails to make a meaningful change at the core. Any credible prospect of enforcement is crucial to making this regulation work. Keeping the high threshold for evidence together with a short investigative timeline, the regulation will be nearly impossible to practically implement.” said Ben Vanpeperstraete, Senior Legal Adviser at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
“The Parliament’s text would allow the instrument to be used effectively in cases where the state is imposing forced labour. We’ve seen the tremendous effect import bans can have in these cases and see the inclusion of a presumption of forced labour in situations of state-imposed forced labour as a big win. We have limited time to get this legislation over the line and hope that the Council drives forward its negotiations.” added Hélène de Rengerve, Senior EU Advisor at Anti-Slavery International
Notes to editors
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights aims to hold perpetrators of serious human abuses to account through conventional or innovative legal means. Our goal is to provide justice and redress to those affected, deter future abuse and develop the international legal framework against impunity. Based in Berlin, ECCHR works with partners around the world on international crimes and accountability, business and human rights, as well as migration, and runs a training programme for future human rights lawyers.
Founded in 1839, Anti-Slavery International is the oldest international human rights organisation in the world. We draw on our experience to work to eliminate all forms of slavery and slavery like practices throughout the world.
For further information please contact:
Anti-Slavery International – Georgina Russell via email@example.com
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