More invaluable work from the Environmental Justice Foundation, in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International. Their latest thoroughly researched report estimates that one million children were subjected to slave labout during the 2009 cotton harvest in Uzbekistan.
This is essential work because it gives the lie to false UK, US and EU claims that the human rights situation under the Karimov regime is “improving”, thus “justifying” their continued alliance with Uzbekistan as a logistics base and route for operations in Afghanistan.
Here is a selection of key facts from the report:
?? Children as young as 10 years old can be dispatched to the cotton fields for two months each year, missing out on their education and jeopardizing their future prospects.
?? Uzbekistan is the world’s 3rd largest cotton exporter and earns around US$1 billion
annually from the sale of its cotton to clothing factories primarily in Asia, which in turn
export garments to the west; and to cotton traders, many of which are based in Europe.
?? Reports in November 2009 estimated one million children working in the last harvest.
Cotton picking is arduous labour, with each child ascribed a daily cotton quota of several
kilos that they must fulfil.
?? Children may be compelled to stay in barrack-like accommodation during the harvest.
Living conditions are often squalid. In those places where food is provided to children, it is
inadequate, often lacking in basic nutrition and children can often only access water
from irrigation pipes, which carries health risks.
?? Children can be left in poor physical condition following the harvest; illnesses including hepatitis, injuries and even deaths are all reported. The harvest begins in the late summer, when temperatures in the fields remain high and can continue until the onset of the Uzbek winter. Children are not provided with any protective clothing whilst they work.
?? Children receive little or no reimbursement for their labour, perhaps a few US cents per kilo of cotton picked. However, payments are deducted to cover their travel to the fields and the food they are provided with during the cotton picking season, which can leave them in debt.
The full report can be downloaded from here:
Every year young children die during forced labour in the Uzbek cotton fields. Millions of adults are also conscripted into slave labour. Islam Karimov and Gulnara Karimova get ever wealthier.
It is a stunning fact that Wal-Mart, Tesco, Asda and C&A have been so sickened by Uzbek child slavery that they have voluntarily banned Uzbek cotton and set up, at their own expense, audit systems to ensure there is not Uzbek cotton in products they sell.
Yet no government has used available anti-slavery provisions in international trade agreements to ban Uzbek cotton. The EU has never even discussed the matter while, thanks to the influence of Western governments, UNICEF has never made any statement or taken any position on child slavery in Uzbekistan.
This is arguably the World’s most depraved single act of inter-governmental complicity.