In 2011, STOP THE TRAFFIK asked Australia’s fashion retailers to sign a pledge to stop knowingly buying cotton sourced from Uzbekistan. We also asked the public to stay informed on this issue and be part of the process of support for companies who did so. Countless companies signed the pledge and the positive steps now being taken in Uzbekistan cotton fields are a sign of its might. However, it is important to continue the pressure, and a new battle-line must be drawn, turning to a pledge against the cotton coming from Turkmenistan.
Protest rallies in the streets of America have become an image we have gotten used to in the last year, but one this week in New York has not received the same amount of public attention as many others in the United States. On October 4th, thousands of protesters gathered outside the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York to demand the end of state sponsored forced labour in Turkmenistan’s cotton industry. The demonstrators presented a petition signed by 84,000 people from across the world to urge the Turkmen government to immediately release Gaspar Matalaev.
Through September, Uzbekistan (Uzbek), who exports 10% of the worlds cotton, making up 20% of the country’s total trade output, complete their cotton harvest. Uzbekistan has spent years being accused of both child labour and forced labour abuses during their cotton harvest. Uzbekistan appears to have used state sponsored forced labour, where civil servants such as teachers and doctors, as well as thousands of school children have been forced to be part of the cotton-picking process. Uzbekistan has faced international pressure due to the prevalence of this state sponsored forced labour, and has outwardly shown to try to improve the situation. Due to this, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) has moved to take Uzbekistan off of their Child Labor watch list, but they will remain on the Forced Labor list.
 International Cotton Advisory Committee, ‘Cotton This Week’, https://www.icac.org/cotton_info/publications/samples/weekly_estimates/8february05.pdf (2005)
Our new pop-up site https://traffikfreechocolate.com.au is full of interesting facts, activities and suggestions on making a difference in child labour and trafficking in the cocoa growing communities. This year’s Easter chocolate campaign stresses the importance of a living income. The ask to chocolate companies is to ensure that they are working towards insuring all cocoa farmers a living income. This is a factor that could be monumental in ending child labour in the cocoa farming communities, but what is a living income, why do we need it, and what can you do to help?
At STOP THE TRAFFIK we believe that slave-free chocolate is a possibility for this generation. For the last 10 years we have been asking chocolate companies to use third party certification. This means having an independent certifier review the chocolate companies to ensure a ‘zero-tolerance’ standard on child labour, training for certified farmers in child protection and child protection monitoring at a community level. These certifiers help to accountability and assurance that the companies are adhering to best practices and a code of conduct.
Much of the human trafficking in the seafood industry in SE Asia is with migrant workers. The trade is in human beings and the currency is hope. Most of these people come from poverty crushing realities and are looking for a better life, or looking to how they might make some money to take home or send back to their families – so they can have a better life. If they get trapped and trafficked, it not only makes it very difficult to live with, but it also makes it difficult to go back home.
Thailand has over 2mil migrant workers with 80% of those coming from Myanmar. In the fishing industry, the largest group affected by slavery in the seafood industry are people from Myanmar. Sompong Srakaew founded the Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN) in 2006 because of the injustices he saw in the treatment of migrant workers in Thailand’s seafood processing industry. Sompong began working on migrant worker issues as early as the 1990s, after graduating with a degree in social work.
Yesterday we discussed where trafficking happens, the contributing factors that give rise to the exploitation and the resulting impact. Today we explored the challenges and devised roadmaps for addressing them.
Breaking into specific areas of expertise for in-depth discussion, collectively we looked at the different avenues for disrupting human trafficking:
Today took a very different approach to the last two days. The morning kicked off with a reminder from STOP THE TRAFFIK’s Carolyn and Fuzz Kitto of the upmost importance of working together and helping one another to fulfil the role each of us has in the fight against human trafficking. Each stakeholder has a responsibility to support and empower other stakeholders to ensure everyone is able to play their specific part in a broad, complex picture that none of us can complete alone.
Fourteen migrant workers are facing up to one and a half year of imprisonment and/or fines of up to 30,000 Thai baht (US$900) for criminal defamation and other charges brought by Thammakaset Co. Ltd. The workers allege that the company seriously violated their rights. Migrant rights activist Andy Hall also faces criminal defamation charges related to the case. The use of defamation laws to go after investigators and workers seeking to document how companies in Thailand violate national labor laws and workers’ rights has a chilling impact on research into corporate supply chains.
STOP THE TRAFFIK is one of 87 organisations who have written to the Prime Minister of Thailand on this matter. You can read the letter at this link http://bit.ly/2yWh7Jt
The first Asia Region Anti-Trafficking Conference is underway. 200 people from 17 countries.
Chad Dai’s Helen Sworn opened the event with the reminder that the coming days are an opportunity to learn from one another, to share how we have succeeded and where we failed in the fight against human trafficking. At the core of the opening evening was the reiteration of the importance of collaboration and partnership. Alone, no single body will end human trafficking. Only together do we stand the chance of making change happen.
The Australian Parliament is undertaking an Inquiry into Human Organ Trafficking and Organ Transplant Tourism. The questions for the Inquiry are whether current Australian Organ Trafficking should have extraterritorial application, that is whether laws should apply to Australian's when they are overseas. It is also looking at whether Australia should accede to a Council of Europe Convention.
You might not be aware that there has actually been an instance of this crime in Australia. With a growing aging population the possibility of increasing numbers of Australian's going overseas for organ transplants is very real.