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23 Dec 2021

Cotton Campaign

Cotton Campaign urges EU to adopt import ban to take action against forced labour in Turkmenistan’s cotton fields

Image of a field of cotton

"EU should adopt an import ban to take action against forced labor in Turkmenistan’s cotton fields​", 21 December 2021

The EU should ban products made with forced labor, including cotton and cotton products from Turkmenistan, from entering the EU market, the Cotton Campaign said. In a letter to European Commission President von der Leyen, the Cotton Campaign, a global coalition working to end forced labor in cotton production in Central Asia, called on the EU to take stronger action against forced labor, including by adopting import control measures to stop goods produced with forced labor from reaching European consumers.

“A forced labor ban is critical for pressuring the Government of Turkmenistan to reform its state-imposed forced labor system in cotton production”, said Allison Gill, Forced Labor Program Director at Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILRF), which hosts the Cotton Campaign. “A ban would complement human rights due diligence requirements on companies to exclude Turkmen cotton from their supply chains.” All cotton and cotton products from Turkmenistan have been barred from entering the U.S.since 2018  because of systematic, state-imposed forced labor in cotton production...

...Through complex and opaque global supply chains, cotton produced within Turkmenistan’s state-imposed forced labor system enters the EU market. Trade data made available by EU Member States shows that in 2020 the EU imported over €12 million worth of cotton and textiles directly from Turkmenistan. Allowing Turkmen cotton products to be sold in the EU provides an unacceptable level of impunity for the Government of Turkmenistan and its state-imposed forced labor system. It also allows brands to avoid their obligation to exclude products made with forced labor from their supply chains. “Shutting down the global market for forced labor Turkmen cotton is essential to pushing the Government to end total state control of the cotton production system, which relies on the exploitation of farmers and forced labor of Turkmen citizens,” said Farid Tukhbatullin, Chairperson of Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, a member of the Cotton Campaign...

...The European Commission, EU Member States and all brands and retailers who sell their products in the EU must take immediate action to ensure supply chains are free of cotton originating in Turkmenistan. This would also bring European law into closer alignment with policies to prevent the sale of goods tainted with forced labor, such as the US import ban and a measure introduced in Canada to bar entry to goods produced with forced labor. The Cotton Campaign urges the EU to adopt import control measures to stop products made with Turkmen cotton from entering the EU. These measures must complement and reinforce accountability and enforcement actions to prevent and remediate forced labor in supply chains, under the mandatory human rights due diligence (mHRDD) framework. The European Commission is expected to present a legislative proposal for mHRDD in early 2022. We call upon the European Commission to consult with civil society organisations and experts in state-imposed forced labor and human rights due diligence in the process of developing both the import ban and the mHRDD legislation.