The European Commission has adopted a legislative proposal aimed at keeping products involving forced labour off the European market. The text is broad, and concerns all types of products, whether they have been imported or produced locally (for the domestic market or for export).
Implementing the system would be down to the individual Member States, whose competent authorities would be responsible for assessing the risks of forced labour.
In the event of serious suspicions concerning a specific product, a proper investigation could lead to a ban on the placing on the market of the products or even an order for their withdrawal and destruction.
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The Commission proposes to base the preliminary assessment on “numerous sources of information” such as indications from civil society, a database to be created, listing the risks of forced labour by region and type of product, and the information from the duty of vigilance (“due diligence”) of large companies. Priority should be given to files concerning large quantities of products.
According to the International Labor Organisation, an estimated 27.6 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour. The proposal, which is likely to concern in particular Chinese production involving the Uyghur Muslim minority, has yet to make its way through the European Parliament and the Council.