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Stop trafficked and exploited labour

Oct 27

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27/10/2009 17:56  RssIcon

Help fight trafficked labour through the new Buy Responsibly campaign

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has launched a new campaign – Buy Responsibly – calling on concerned citizens to tell businesses that there's no place for exploited and trafficked labour in their supply chains.

Up until now, global counter trafficking efforts have mainly focused on the issue of trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation. But the IOM argues that trafficking for labour exploitation of both sexes and all ages has increased in the last five years. This has largely involved men and boys trafficked to work in the agricultural, construction, fishing and domestic service sectors.

And it's not a problem confined to poorer countries. The IOM estimate that, on average, in every industrialised country 113 000 people work in conditions of forced labour. In the UK, over half a million irregular migrants are believed to work in exploitative conditions. If those working in conditions of forced labour in industrialised countries were to be fairly compensated, they would be owed more than $2.5 billion.

"A lot of people are trafficked to Europe and we feel very strongly that the root cause of trafficking is not poverty, it's not gender inequalities, it's not conflict," says Richard Danziger, head of IOM's Global Counter Trafficking Programme. "The bottom line is demand - that we as consumers want cheap products.”

Ageing populations and falling birth rates in industrialized countries coupled with an over-supply of labour in poorer countries, and a denial of sufficient channels for legal migration, have paved the way for human traffickers to profit from the demand for cheap foreign labour and services.

“Some sectors of the economy, such as construction and agriculture, depend on irregular cheap labour for growth and profits.  But economic growth shouldn’t depend on exploitation,” according to IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. “Clearly this is not acceptable. A change in mindset and practices among consumers and businesses alike needs to occur,” Swing adds.

Several concrete and far-reaching steps can be taken to achieve this. They include regulating the informal sector in destination countries to ensure workers are brought under the protection of labour laws; making business and employers legally responsible for human trafficking and migrant exploitation in their supply chain; encouraging the creation of ethical employer associations adhering to codes of conduct guaranteeing the rights of migrants and workers and providing more legal channels for migration. Equally essential is raising awareness among consumers of products and services provided by trafficked and exploited labour.

“Consumers who are increasingly demanding fair trade have the power to end labour exploitation by buying responsibly and getting business to rethink how it operates. This can make a huge difference in countering human trafficking. There is no time to waste,” says Swing.

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