US govt joins with NGO in forced labour crackdown

15 August 2019

The US Department of Homeland Security has announced an alliance with anti-trafficking NGO Liberty Shared, in a new offensive aimed at prosecuting companies who profit from forced labour within their supply chains. 

The partnership between the department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and Liberty Shared has been heralded as a “landmark moment for the global fight against corporate slavery and labor trafficking” by global law firm Pillsbury.

By using knowledge and information collected by Liberty Shared on corporate supply chains and financial flows, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Global Trade Investigations (GTI) division aims to gather information to successfully prosecute companies benefiting financially from forced labour. 

US government officials hope to eliminate the financial draw of using forced labour within supply chains and any profit made by exploiting people to produce goods for market.

Announcing the new partnership, at the end of last month, the government agency said: “Businesses and individuals profiting from forced labour should be held accountable and liable. These are matters of criminal and civil law, not just questions of ethical conduct.”

It added: “At present, those benefiting directly and indirectly from engagement in forced labor activities may do so with seeming impunity and those providing the labor are often without access to justice.”

Steve Francis, assistant director of HSI’s GTI division, commented: “Forced labor is a plague that cuts across multiple industries and sectors, and is a threat that must be met using a multi-faceted approach.”

He said: “With this new partnership, we can now leverage HSI’s broad legal authorities coupled with Liberty Shared’s vast capabilities to combat forced labor in a more holistic way.”

Duncan Jepson, MD of Liberty Shared, remarked: “We are very pleased to create a relationship with HSI to support their work in global trade enforcement against the use of forced labor in US-bound supply chains, and hope that we will be able to contribute to the increased accountability of perpetrators and access to justice for their victims.”

Corporations operating in the US which are found to be benefiting from forced labour in their supply chain can be prosecuted under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), a federal law to address human trafficking.

In a statement responding to the new partnership, Pillsbury called it an “extraordinary step by the US government that is expected to lead to a new era of international corporate crime enforcement in the area of corporate slavery and forced labour.”

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