On 3rd December 2020, the Chamber of Deputies in Luxembourg unanimously adopted the draft law to ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Protocol of 2014 (P029). The protocol is a complement to the landmark Forced Labour Convention of 1930 (C029) and requires member states to take effective measures to prevent and eradicate forced labour. It works at three levels: prevention, protection and compensation. So far, 47 countries have ratified the protocol. Will Luxembourg be the 48th country to ratify it?
Background notes – What is forced labour?
The ILO Convention defines the concept of forced labour as “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily”. More precisely, the ILO indicates that the ‘menace of any penalty’ includes “penal sanctions as well as wide range of means of coercion used to compel someone to perform work or a service against their will”, such as physical, psychological or sexual violence, financial penalty, removal of rights or privileges etc. Actually, workers of forced labour often suffer multiple forms of coercion or menace from employers or recruiters so as not to be able to escape from the situation.
Forms of forced labour can vary from bonded labour and sexual exploitation to state-imposed forced labour (e.g. compulsory prison labour as means of labour discipline) etc. Some practices of human trafficking [i] and slavery (and slavery-like) practices, which are some of the issues that Time For Equality has long been focusing on, are also regarded as forced labour.
International legal instruments
Aiming at prohibiting forced labour, two ILO conventions – the Forced Labour Convention (C029) in 1930 and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (C105) in 1957 – and various related international labour standards have been adopted throughout history. Particularly, the two conventions had played a great role to define the concept of forced labour as well as to eradicate it, yet it has been pointed out that a) forced labour not only still exists, but also is becoming more prevalent in certain sectors; b) the context and forms of forced labour have changed since 1930; and c) there is the need for a common framework to effectively eradicate forced labour (see Preamble of the P029).
Therefore, the ILO developed the Protocol of 2014 (P029) to complement and strengthen the Forced Labour Convention (C029). More precisely, the protocol requires member states to “take effective measures to prevent and eliminate” the use of forced labour (Article 1) and provides six preventative measures (Article 2). Compared to the convention (C029), the protocol (P029) pays particular attention to the causal factors of forced labour, as Article 2 clearly mentions “addressing the root causes and factors that heighten the risks of forced or compulsory labour”. Article 2 also includes educating and informing as measures to be taken for prevention. Another difference compared to the convention is that the protocol highlights migrant workers as targets of protection, implying that certain migrant workers became exposed at the risk of being involved in forced labour.
Human trafficking in Luxembourg
In Luxembourg, the Commission consultative des Droits de l’Homme (CCDH, consultative commission on human rights) is assigned as the national rapporteur on human trafficking and has published two reports so far. Accordingly, 110 people were identified or presumed as ‘victim of human trafficking’[ii] between 2010 and 2018 in Luxembourg. The number had seen a decrease from 2010 to 2015, but it has increased since 2016.
Regarding the profile of trafficked persons, firstly, focusing on the sex, while women are disproportionately involved in human trafficking, the report shows that human trafficking happens also to men. Secondly, when it comes to types of exploitation, on the one hand, a majority suffers from sexual exploitation (e.g. in the street, cabaret, brothel), on the other hand, the world of work (particularly in the HoReCa, construction and domestic work sectors) is becoming a popular place of forced labour. Another point to note is that while the CCDH mentions that the mode of recruitment for trafficking is not clear, two representatives of organizations assisting trafficked persons reveal a concern related to the trafficking of a person from a country of similar culture (e.g. trafficking of Pakistani by an Indian, of Brazilian by a Portuguese). Accordingly, it is likely to happen because a person easily trusts in traffickers due to their cultural familiarity.
What has Luxembourg done so far?
As stated in the first ever report on human trafficking in Luxembourg (CCDH, 2016), practices of human trafficking, including forced labour, do exist in the country. Through several initiatives and action plans [iii] as well as with the collaboration of various institutions including the police, the CCDH, NGOs, efforts are being made to eradicate forced labour as well as to assist trafficked persons. Nonetheless, there is still much to improve.
Whereas many civil society organizations have repeatedly called for, Luxembourg has not ratified the ILO protocol P029 yet. Nevertheless, the ratification is getting closer than ever! The projet de loi no.7521 portant approbation du Protocole P029 (draft law on the approval of the Protocol P029) was presented to the Chamber of Deputies on January 28th, 2020. Subsequently on 3rd December 2020, the Chamber of Deputies unanimously adopted the draft law, and the exemption of the second constitutional vote was presented.
Yet, the ratification will only be the first necessary step, some issues remain, notably with regard to the implementation. The CCDH and Caritas Luxembourg pointed out some critical issues and provided recommendations. Firstly, it should be noted that no concrete or effective measure has been presented by the government so far, even though the protocol is meant to strengthen existing laws and leaves room for each member state to decide what are ‘effective’ measures. Given that the draft law constitutes only one article approving the ratification, the CCDH argues that it is simply an “enumeration” of existing measures (p.1). Furthermore, the CCDH, while appreciating, claims that existing plans of action[iii] do not sufficiently include concrete measures for prevention of forced labour or for campaigns to raise awareness of the issue (p.2; p.4).
Similarly, Caritas Luxembourg insists on the need of policy which takes global value chains into consideration. In other words, Caritas Luxembourg suggests measures which restrict the importation of the so-called ‘slavery goods’, goods made by the hands of ‘modern slavery’ (p.17).
Additionally, Caritas Luxembourg (p.18) and the CCDH (p.2) indicate that the penalty defined by the code pénal (criminal code) is less severe, compared to the severity of the violation of human rights. Moreover, both add that it happened several times that the actually imposed penalty was less than what is indicated in the code penal (see the document drafted by Caritas Luxembourg for details).
Furthermore, Caritas Luxembourg suggests that the government include formerly trafficked persons in the process of setting up strategies (p.22). Caritas Luxembourg argues that the voices of those who have experienced human trafficking are precious and can contribute to strengthen actions against human trafficking.
Time For Equality has been focusing on advocacy and raising awareness with regard to modern-day slavery and the protocol for the past three years. We will continue to follow the ratification, and more importantly the implementation process, and to work for ending forced labour for good !
To get to know more about the protocol P029!
- ILO: Forced Labour, modern slavery and human trafficking – English | Français
- P029: Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention 1930 – English | Français
- R203: Forced Labour (Supplementary Measures) Recommendation 2014 – English | Français
- ILO: Toolkit on developing national action plans on forced labour – English | Français
- 50 for Freedom, campaign led by ILO and its partners to promote the ratification – English | Français
- Luxembourg for Freedom, initiative led by Time For Equality – English
- Commission consultative des Droits de l’Homme (CCDH), et ses rapports sur la traite des êtres humains au Luxembourg – Français
- CCDH : Avis sur le projet de loi 7521 portant approbation du Protocol P029 – Français
- Caritas Luxembourg : Renforcer le Combat contre l’esclavage moderne – Français
- Chambre des Députés : Projet de loi portant approbation du Protocol P029 – Français
[i] ILO indicates that human trafficking for labour or sexual exploitation is a form of forced labour, but trafficking for the removal of organs is not part of forced labour.
[ii] The reports include the following categories of exploitations: sexual exploitation, labour exploitation; sale of children; forced begging; commission of a crime; and trafficking of organs. Of these, trafficking of organs was not identified or presumed between 2010 and 2018.
[iii] The CCDH refers to the plan d’action national contre la traite des êtres humains in 2016 and the plan d’action national entreprises et droits de l’homme 2020 à 2022.
Text by Yuki Fujita for Time For Equality
image: Expressions of Humanity, @Larissa Ruhstaller