Letter to European Commission on Uyghur forced labour
November 16th, 2021
On November 9th, 2021, the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) sent an open letter to European Commissioners involved in forthcoming Sustainable Corporate Governance initiative, urging them to make sure the upcoming proposal contains robust and comprehensive provisions.

As the EU is China’s biggest trading partner, European businesses and consumers in particular are exposed to Uyghur forced labour. For example, the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region estimates that 1 in 5 cotton garments in the global apparel market are tainted by forced labour from the Uyghur Region.

The European Commission is expected to soon come up with a legislative proposal that would make it mandatory for companies based or operating in the EU market to conduct due diligence to address human rights and environment abuses. 

The letter emphasises that this legislative initiative on due diligence must be complemented by equally ambitious measures, such as an import control mechanism on forced labour goods. We urge the EU Commission to introduce import controls to block or seize the imports of goods made or transported in whole or in part with forced labour. 

In a recent paper, ECCJ and other civil society organisations highlighted key considerations for the development and functioning of such import controls or bans. In particular, the objective of any forced labour import control measure must be to ensure remediation for victims of forced labour in global value chains, as has been global best practice in jurisdictions such as the US. Any corporate due diligence obligation and potential import control measure must work efficiently in tandem and guarantee remediation for victims.

Further supplementary measures include Uyghur-specific guidelines or country fact sheets and additional listings under the EU’s sanctions regime.

The open letter sets out recommendations for robust and comprehensive provisions that are required to address the egregious human rights abuses against people from the Uyghur Region in China.