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Labor exploitation in Europe during COVID-19 pandemic
LABOR EXPLOITATION IN EUROPE DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Measures taken to control the COVID-19 pandemic, and their socio-economic consequences, have increased the vulnerability of victims of human trafficking as well as persons at risk of trafficking. An increasing number of people are losing their jobs, and the existing practices of workers' abuse in certain industries place labor exploitation at the forefront.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, organization Atina has, with the support of the Council of Europe, been particularly focused on the prevention of labor exploitation in the context of human trafficking. During this period, expert discussions have been held and recorded on the influence of the pandemic on the phenomenon of labor exploitation in the context of human trafficking, in order to fully grasp the extent of this issue and its prevalence at the European level. Particular debate was concerning hidden forms of labor exploitation, domestic servitude during the pandemic, as well as child labor. Special attention was devoted to analyzing the impact on exploited migrant workers at Europe's farmlands, truck drivers, as well as workers in Europe's slaughterhouses. Following are some of the most important conclusions reached during these discussions.
The increased levels of domestic violence reported in many countries of Europe represent a worrying indicator for the living conditions of many trafficking victims. Particularly affected are victims of sexual, as well as labor, exploitation and domestic servitude, as forms of exploitation that disproportionately affect women and girls. The pandemic and child labor are crucial topics for the creation of child protection policies in the future.
There are more and more evidence of a rise in the number of child labor cases since the schools have been closed, or work on a modified schedule due to the pandemic. Even when the classes resume, some parents will no longer be able to afford to send their children to school. In order to combat child labor, it is necessary to have a more comprehensive social protection, easier access to credit for poor households, to promote decent work for adults, measures to get children back into school, including the elimination of school fees. More resources must be allocated for labor inspections and law enforcement in order to successfully suppress child labor exploitation.
In addition to women and children, migrants have been recognized at the European level as one of the most vulnerable social groups. Impact of COVID-19 on labor exploitation of migrants at Europe’s farmlands will have permanent consequences. It’s worth asking ourselves: is it hard to recruit workers because there’s a labor shortage, or because the conditions these workers have to face are such that it’s practically impossible for locals to accept them? A significant number of citizens of the Republic of Serbia has also experienced labor exploitation abroad, including work at Europe's farmlands.
The transport industry has been largely absent from reports dealing with labor exploitation, which mostly focused on migrant agricultural workers or care workers in Western European countries. Labor exploitation of truck drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming more and more common, as many reports are warning. International federation of trade unions recently released a report about how contracted foreign drivers from low-wage countries were being exploited by the transport industry.
"Exploitative working conditions, overcrowded accommodation, up to 16 hour-working days, low pay, illegal wage deductions and job insecurity are just some of the injustices facing meat workers in Europe. The sector has also long depended to a large extent on migrant and cross-border workers – from inside the EU and from third countries – who are often the subject of unequal treatment and abuse“. This is only one of numerous examples of severe labor rights' violations during the pandemic. Exploited workers in Europe’s slaughterhouses report that their position has only been further exacerbated by the crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
All of the above indicates that we, as a society, must be determined and united in demands for any suspicion of labor exploitation to be adequately addressed, as well as for institutions mandated to protect workers' rights, and services mandated to identify victims of trafficking, to transform their work protocols from reactive to proactive, and take the initiative in defending the personal and dignity of work.
If you recognize
that someone is a victim of human trafficking,
IT IS IMPORTANT
not to be silent and turn a blind eye!
This campaign is a part of the project "Prevention and Combating Human Trafficking in Serbia" conducted within the joint program of the European Union and the Council of Europe "Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey II" which is implemented by the Council of Europe. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of either party.