UN human rights experts on Friday raised serious concerns about the alleged forced labour of a group of approximately 400 Vietnamese migrant workers who were reported to be victims of trafficking in Serbia.
Eight companies, including Vietnamese labour recruitment agencies and Chinese construction companies registered in Serbia, have allegedly been implicated in serious human rights abuses against Vietnamese migrant workers.
“We are deeply concerned that these migrant workers may have been trafficked for purposes of forced labour, and have been living and working in appalling conditions in Serbia, at serious risk to their lives and health,” the independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council said.
The experts have written to the businesses and are also in contact with authorities in the three countries.
“We are also very disturbed by allegations that civil society organizations have not been allowed to access to locations where workers are accommodated in order to provide assistance,” they added.
“Partnerships and cooperation with civil society, including trade unions, NGOs, and human rights defenders, are essential to ensure protection of trafficked persons.”
The experts urged the Governments of Serbia, Vietnam and China to ensure that businesses based in their territory, or operating under their jurisdiction, respect the human rights of all workers.
“This includes not only the businesses who rely on migrant labour but also labour recruitment agencies,” they said.
Regulation and monitoring of labour recruitment agencies is also critical to effectively prevent trafficking for the purposes of forced labour, they added.
The experts reminded governments of their duty to protect against business-related human rights abuses.
Countries must also take appropriate steps to ensure victims have access to justice and effective remedies, and to ensure ongoing assistance and protection, including against forced return.
They also highlighted the obligations of businesses to exercise due diligence in ensuring that the rights of all workers are protected, without discrimination, recognising the particular needs and rights of migrant workers.
The eight human rights experts who issued the statement receive their mandates from the UN Human Rights Council, located in Geneva. (Source: UN News)