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Forced labour: Commission welcomes Council political agreement to implement new ILO Protocol

Forced labour: Commission welcomes Council political agreement to implement new ILO Protocol © hxdyl /

The EU has taken a further step towards better preventing forced labour to happen and protecting its victims.

In a move welcomed by the European Commission, the Council has given its backing to proposals authorising Member States to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) new Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention and recommending them to do so by the end of 2016. The Commission proposed these decisions in September 2014. After today's agreement in principle by the Council, the Parliament will need to give its consent to the decisions before they can be formally adopted by the Council.

The ILO Forced Labour Protocol, together with a complementary Recommendation, was adopted by the 103rd session of the International Labour Conference in June 2014.

Countries ratifying the ILO Protocol agree

  • to prevent the use of forced labour, in particular in the context of trafficking in human beings,
  • to improve the protection of victims, and
  • to provide access to compensation.

It also enhances international cooperation in the fight against forced or compulsory labour.

States ratifying the ILO Convention are required to develop a national policy and plan of action for the suppression of forced labour, in consultation with workers and employers’ organisations. They must take measures to prevent forced labour, including by informing vulnerable people and protecting them from possible fraudulent recruitment practices.

As regards the victims of forced labour, the Convention introduces an obligation to ensure their identification, release, protection, recovery and rehabilitation.

Further clauses require ratifying States

  • to provide access to remedies, including compensation, to all victims and
  • to ensure that competent authorities are entitled not to prosecute them for unlawful activities which they have been compelled to commit.

The ILO estimates that over 21 million people worldwide are today victims of forced or compulsory labour, which generates US$ 150 billion in illegal profits per year. Domestic workers and workers in agriculture, construction, fishing or mining are particularly vulnerable to forced labour.