Coalition Statement on European Commission’s Proposed Ban on Products Made with Forced Labour

On Tuesday, September 21, the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region applauded the European Commission’s proposed import ban on products made by forced labour. The action marks a critical step in the global fight to rid supply chains of goods produced by Uyghur forced labour. 

“The writing is on the wall for corporations who are turning a blind eye to the Chinese Government’s forced labour scheme. Companies around the world need to take decisive action or risk getting caught in the crosshairs of enforcement,” said Zumretay Arkin, Program & Advocacy Manager from World Uyghur Congress. “We hope to see the European Parliament and Council pick up this proposal with the urgency it demands. Inaction only leads to further harm. Those suffering through forced work in the Uyghur Region cannot wait.”

Companies can get ahead of government crackdowns on goods implicated in forced labour by making a formal commitment to the Coalition’s Call to Action. With specific steps and criteria, the Call to Action outlines how corporations can ensure their supply chains are free from Uyghur forced labour. 

“The proposal from the Commission is a strong building block for future legislation,” said Tibbe Smith Larsen, the European Coordinator from the Clean Clothes Campaign. “And while we applaud the proposed ban, there is room here for greater transparency regarding enforcement and reporting of violations. From here, we encourage the EU to pass and continue to strengthen this legislation to ensure those complicit in Uyghur forced labour face accountability.”

The new proposed import controls follow guidance released by the European Commission earlier this year regarding the due diligence companies are expected to conduct in order to identify and curtail forced labour in their supply chains. Echoing the Coalition’s Call to Action, the guidance encouraged companies to redirect raw material sourcing from high-risk areas where workplace assessments are not feasible. 

“As governments around the globe attempt to curb forced labour, we have encouraging news: import controls work,” said Chloe Cranston, Business and Human Rights Manager at Anti-Slavery International. “We encourage all countries to do the same. Companies should not have a ‘dumping ground’ for forced labour products, and the best way to ensure that is to limit their market access through these measures.” 

As the EU moves forward to debate this critical legislation, the Coalition equally urges all other governments to introduce and enforce comparable import controls. 

About the Coalition

The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region is a coalition of civil society organisations and trade unions united to end state-sponsored forced labour and other egregious human rights abuses against people from the Uyghur Region in China, known to local people as East Turkistan.

The coalition is calling on leading companies to ensure that they are not supporting or benefiting from the pervasive and extensive forced labour of the Uyghur population and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples, perpetrated by the Chinese government.

We call on governments, multi-stakeholder initiatives, companies, and other stakeholders to join us in challenging this abusive system and together build the economic and political pressure on the Chinese government to end forced labour in the Uyghur Region.

Photo by Guillaume Périgois on Unsplash