Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Myamar's Bonded Labour

Myanmar’s seafood businesses are increasingly seeking export markets, including the EU. And unless the EU responds to the clear evidence of widespread slavery and brutal conditions in Myanmar’s fishing industry, Europe could face another slavery scandal
 While forced labour and slavery in the fishing industry have been brought to light in recent years, the fishing industry in Myanmar has received less attention.

Fishing in Myanmar’s Gulf of Mottama is dangerous business. Hours are long and conditions are harsh. But it’s a lucrative business too. Between September and May up to 50,000 men work to catch around 10,000 tonnes of fish, mostly shrimp. The owners are believed to yield a healthy profit – especially when the boats are crewed using slave labour.
Shrimp from Myanmar could soon be landing on European plates. The Myanmar government has been in talks about how more processors and exporters can meet the sustainability rules that will allow them to export to the EU. Europeans have been careless about slavery in our supply chains before. It would be another dreadful failure if we fail to ensure that human rights are central to future trade relationships with Myanmar.
Forced labour is a huge, unaddressed issue across Myanmar. For men on the rafts in the Gulf of Mottama will be paid around $1,000 for their nine months at sea. Loans from village money lenders, who typically charge around 20% interest per month, make up any shortfall. The sums that raft fishermen are promised are often only enough to maintain these high-interest debts, not to pay them off. Every year, they have to submit to continued exploitation at the fisheries.

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