Lead committees confirm their position on the Forced labour Regulation, yet fall short on addressing systemic forced labour
Oct 16, 2023

Lead committees confirm their position on the Forced labour Regulation, yet fall short on addressing systemic forced labour

By EJF Staff

Parliamentary committees agree on a Regulation draft to prohibit forced labour products but could go further to tackle labour exploitation at its root

As the European Parliament takes a significant step forward with the Forced Labour Regulation, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has voiced its disappointment that the INTA/IMCO committees have chosen not to include a crucial 'carding system' amendment. While progress is being made, the focus on addressing the symptoms rather than the root causes of systemic forced labour is disheartening, says the NGO.

By the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) latest estimates, almost 28 million people globally are trapped in forced labour. This figure indicates a rise of approximately 2.7 million since the previous estimate in 2016. Despite global commitments to eradicate forced labour, action to tackle these practices is not happening quickly enough, according to EJF.

The ‘carding system’ could have empowered the EU to take direct action against entities, including production sites and fishing vessels using forced labour, with the possibility to effectively blacklist repeat offenders from importing goods into the EU. This goes further than the individual product ban at the EU border currently on the table. Furthermore, it would have fostered collaboration with third-country governments to help them meet internationally accepted standards. Today, with the omission of this mechanism, the Parliament fell short on its commitment to completely eradicating forced labour globally, says the NGO.

The European Parliament itself has recognised the inadequacy of a single "ban on forced labour products" and emphasised the importance of focusing on dialogues with non-EU countries to address this global issue (in its Resolution of 2022). Additionally, the Parliament called for the potential to "allow for bans on forced labour products from a particular site of production, company, region, vessel, or fleet." The 'carding system' would have met these crucial requirements.

Steve Trent, CEO and Founder of the Environmental Justice Foundation, said: “The 'carding system' amendment was poised to transform the Forced Labour Regulation. In the absence of this critical tool, lawmakers must redouble their efforts to address the root causes of forced labour and work towards a more comprehensive solution.”

EJF encourages lawmakers to consider the value of including this mechanism, recognising its potential to be a game-changer in addressing systemic forced labour across the globe.