July 29, 2015
This year’s U.S. State Department 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report places a special emphasis on human trafficking in the global marketplace.
It highlights the hidden risks that workers may encounter when seeking employment and the steps that governments and businesses can take to prevent trafficking, including a demand for transparency in global supply chains
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, slavery and human trafficking in the supply chain have become a greater concern for companies.
Slavery is reportedly common in the seafood sector, where the Associated Press tracked fish from a slave boat to the supermarket, and more recently used space photography to find an alleged slave boat in Papua New Guinea.
“Some companies may participate knowingly in human trafficking to pad the bottom line; others are willfully ignorant of where and how their inexpensive products are made; and still others simply do not know,” said Mr. Smith, in a statement. Mr. Smith wrote the legislation mandating the report on human trafficking.
“There is no question that many goods being sold to American consumers are produced with slave labor, and we have a moral obligation to do something about it,” said Rep Carolyn B. Maloney. “This legislation simply requires businesses to publicly disclose what actions they have voluntarily undertaken to remove labor abuses from their supply chains.”
The bill came hours after the release of the State Department report, which upgraded Cuba and Malaysia’s status but left Thailand at the lowest level after it received a downgrade last year.
Governments in the lowest tier could see the U.S. government withhold non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance.
These countries could also see the U.S. oppose giving them aid through international financial institutions like the World Bank.
When announcing the report’s release, Secretary of State John Kerry pointed to an article the New York Times in which a young Cambodian boy who crossed the border into Thailand on the promise of a construction job, but found himself held by armed men and pressed into service on the sea, shackled by neck to a boat.
“If that isn’t slavery and imprisonment, I don’t know what is,” said Mr. Kerry, according to published remarks.
Slavery in the Supply Chain Still a Major Concern
Thailand not adequately addressing human trafficking
The U.S. Department of State maintained Thailand’s Tier 3 ranking, the lowest category, in its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which was released this week.
The ranking accurately reflects Thailand’s lagging efforts to combat human trafficking and will incentivize the Thai government to make greater strides in the coming year, according to a global coalition of 25 human rights, environmental and labor groups, who sent an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today.
“The Thai government seems to be realizing it must address its significant labor trafficking problem or face economic consequences,” said Abby McGill, campaigns director for the International Labor Rights Forum.
“Unfortunately, the changes it has made so far are largely cosmetic. We hope this decision will underscore the urgent need to reform immigration and labor laws so they uphold the human rights of migrant workers, one of the populations in Thailand most vulnerable to human trafficking.”
The role of Flags of Convenience is also being examined by humanitarian agencies.
“Flags of convenience are a huge problem that enable many illegal practices, including forced labor,” McGill said in an interview with Supply Chain Management Review.
“They allow ship operators acting illegally to be accountable to literally no one and make it much more difficult for workers on fishing vessels who have been trafficked to find assistance. But Thailand’s problem is slightly different in that they are not a flag of convenience, but are having trouble getting vessels in their fleet to actually register. We strongly support regulation and strict oversight of fishing vessels as a way to avoid the worst abuses and bring criminals to justice.”
There are an estimated 3-4 million migrant workers in Thailand, many of whom labor in the most dangerous jobs in Thailand’s booming export economy. Several high-profile global media exposés last year brought significant international attention to the problem of human trafficking among migrant workers in Thailand’s fishing industry in particular.
The European Union issued Thailand a “yellow card” for its failure to adequately monitor its fishing industry in April, which gave the Thai government six months to improve oversight, or face sanctions.
The letter also condemned Thailand’s use of criminal defamation to prosecute journalists and human rights defenders who uncover cases of human trafficking, claiming such prosecutions inhibit the ability of victims to speak out and seek justice.
This month, Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, and migrant rights defender Andy Hall, faced court proceedings in separate cases related to accusations of human trafficking, the former in the seafood sector and the latter at a pineapple canning facility.
“While there have recently been positive moves forward, Thailand has still not yet demonstrated enough political will, translated into effective implementation of actions, to change the systemic nature of its human trafficking,” said Sein Htay, president of the Migrant Workers Rights Network. (other Migrant-Rights.org Networks)
“It’s important that government, industry and civil society all work together to push the Thai government toward greater enforcement against the drivers of human trafficking, and accountability for the people guilty of supporting this egregious form of exploitation.”
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About the author
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management
and Supply Chain Management Review
magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]