21 Sep We have to ban products made by forced labor
MEP Ripa (ÖDP) calls for a shift of the burden of proof
(Brussels, 21/09/2022) The European Commission has announced that products manufactured using forced labor are no longer to be sold in the EU in the future. The focus is particularly on China, where there have long been reports of obvious human rights violations against the Uyghur ethnic group. German companies are among those that are supposedly profiting from the forced labor of this oppressed minority.
Manuela Ripa, a Member of the European Parliament for the ÖDP (Ecological Democratic Party), welcomes the plans of the EU Commission. “The time is long overdue to introduce the law to ban forced labor at the European level. My party, the ÖDP, is also strongly in favor of such a regulation. There are an estimated 25 million people worldwide that are victims of forced labor. Many of the products they harvest or manufacture are sold in the EU. The issue is by no means limited to China. This is exactly why I welcome the Commission’s plan.”
In its legislative proposal, the EU Commission refers to the definition of forced labor established by the International Labour Organization (ILO). According to this definition, it includes any involuntary labor or service that is required of a person under threat of punishment. However, the proposal still needs to be approved by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. Manuela Ripa plans to work to improve the text in the process. Furthermore, the ÖDP politician notes: “The implementation of this prohibition remains the responsibility of the individual Member States. However, it is not easy for them to prove that a product or parts of it were manufactured using forced labor, due to very complex supply chains in the industry. This is why I, together with my group, advocate a shift in the burden of proof. As soon as there is a strong indication of forced labor in a product, a company should be obliged to prove compliance with human rights in the production chain, or the product will be withdrawn from the market by the authorities.”
The ÖDP MEP points out that such a ban on products from forced labor is already in force in the USA. In order to make it an effective means of protection against the exploitation of people in the EU as well, she points out, we remain dependent on the help of civil society such as non-governmental organizations.
It is about time for more responsibility towards all those people who are exploited and forced to work under undignified conditions by unscrupulous profiteers around the globe. With the right political course set, European importers can also no longer earn money from such crimes against human rights: “When it comes to forced labor, the import of products from child labor, in particular, must be banned as quickly as possible. This would affect, among other things, gravestones from India.” This is what Helmut Scheel, a member of the federal executive committee of the ÖDP, demands.