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MEPs must stand up for 2 million Uzbek child workers and reject trade pact


15 Dec 2011


Global Europe

"MEPs must reject the EU-Uzbekistan trade partnership agreement unambiguously" Irish GUE/NGL MEP Paul Murphy said ahead of today's European Parliament vote on an EU textiles trade deal with the country.

"Again and again in this house, the gulf between words and actions is great. That gulf should be closed here today. Consent can only be considered after the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has been allowed access and after the practice of forced child labour has been ended."

Up to 2 million children, some as young as 7, are forced to work in Uzbekistan's cotton fields. They face 10-hour working days, exposure to harmful pesticides and risk of physical harm or expulsion from school if they refuse to do it. Despite EU condemnation of this, the Uzbekistan government still benefits from preferential access to the EU market via reduced tariffs under the EU's generalised system of preferences (GSP).

"The Uzbek government's blanket denials are simply not credible, given the multitude of independent reports and the fact that the government refuses to allow access to the ILO. The attempts by the right wing in this Parliament to water down this report are outrageous in my opinion".

"They should answer to a 14 year old boy from Uzbekistan who said:

'We're really afraid of getting expelled from school. Every September 2, the first day of school, the Director warns us that if we don't go out to pick cotton we might as well not come back to school. The school administration does everything to create the impression that the schoolchildren themselves are the ones who have decided to go out to the cotton fields. But just try to "voluntarily" not go out to the harvest! We're all forced to obey this unwritten law.'"

GUE/NGL Press Contacts:
David Lundy +32 485 50 58 12

Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20
European United Left / Nordic Green Left
European Parliamentary Group


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