No Dalian: CBP detains Chinese seafood for use of forced labour
The US Customs and Border Protection Service (‘CBP’) has said that it has issued ‘a Withhold Release Order against Dalian Ocean Fishing Co., Ltd. based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labor in the entity’s fishing operations.’
It said it had ‘identified all 11 of the International Labour Organization’s indicators of forced labor during its investigation including physical violence, withholding of wages, and abusive working and living conditions.
‘Effective immediately, the new Withhold Release Order instructs CBP personnel at all U.S. ports of entry to begin detaining tuna, swordfish, and other seafood harvested by vessels owned or operated by the Dalian Ocean Fishing Co., Ltd. This is the first Withhold Release Order CBP has issued against an entire fleet of fishing vessels.’
The CBP noted that Federal statute 19 U.S.C. 1307 ‘prohibits the importation of merchandise produced, wholly or in part, by convict labor, forced labor, and/or indentured labor, including forced or indentured child labor. CBP detains shipments of goods suspected of being imported in violation of this statute. Importers of detained shipments have the opportunity to export their shipments or demonstrate that the merchandise was not produced with forced labor.’
According to a blog entry on the website of the London International Development Centre, a consortium of University of London institutions, ‘Labour exploitation aboard [some fishing vessels] is flagrantly abusive and inhumane, ranging from withholding workers’ identity documents, 18-22 hour work days with inadequate breaks, hunger, routine physical and verbal abuse, unsanitary accommodation, unsafe labour conditions, an inability to end their contracts or leave the vessel, and even executions as punishment for attempted escapes. Workers also frequently experience non or under-payment of wages and large debt burdens from necessities like food and high labour recruitment fees they will never be able to pay back.’
It says that most of those lured into forced labour in fisheries ‘are labour migrants predominantly from Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. There are reportedly tens of thousands of migrants in forced labour on Chinese-owned fishing vessels, for example.’