Photo credits @ European Parliament

EU Parliament backs ban on products made with forced labour

The European Parliament has adopted a new regulation prohibiting the sale, import, and export of goods produced using forced labour within the EU single market.

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This legislation empowers both member state authorities and the European Commission to investigate suspicious goods, supply chains, and manufacturers. If a product is linked to forced labour, it will be prohibited from being sold anywhere in the EU, including online platforms, and shipments will be intercepted at the borders.

Investigations will be based on verifiable information from international organisations, cooperating authorities, and whistleblowers. The criteria will consider factors like the prevalence of state-imposed forced labour in specific sectors and geographic areas.

Companies found to be using forced labour will face consequences, including withdrawing their products from the EU market and potential fines. However, they will be allowed to reintroduce their goods once they can demonstrate that forced labour has been eliminated from their supply chains.

This is a major victory for human rights, stated Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques, rapporteur for the Internal Market committee. With 28 million people globally trapped in forced labour, the EU cannot claim to uphold its values while accepting products tainted by such exploitation.

Samira Rafaela, the rapporteur for the International Trade Committee, echoed this sentiment, calling the regulation a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will combat forced labour globally.

The regulation was overwhelmingly approved by the Parliament with 555 votes in favour, 6 against, and 45 abstentions. It now awaits final approval from the EU Council before being published in the Official Journal. EU countries will then have three years to implement the new law.