Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Exploitation, forced labour on the rise in ČR

24 April 2013

Prague, April 23 (CTK) - The number of exploited people has been rising in the Czech Republic, not only those from third countries but also from the EU as well as Czechs from ghettoes and the homeless, La Strada Czech Republic organisation head Irena Fercikova Konecna told reporters yesterday.

She noted that most forced labour victims from third counties came from Asia and post-Soviet republics.

La Strada is helping victims of human trafficking.

The methods of culprits are also changing. They do not use violence to enslave people but abuse their desperate social situation, Fercikova Konecna said.

The Czech Republic and other countries learn to punish human trafficking more efficiently, she added.

Some 100 experts were discussing efficient steps to suppress forced labour in Prague these days.

"Compared to the situation before 2008, we have noticed a considerable rise. Paradoxically, the demand for forced labour and work in which people are exploited has been stronger and stronger," Fercikova Konecna said.

The economic crisis has worsened the situation, she added.

Many foreigners in the Czech Republic lost jobs. They had debts and could not return home. This is why they had to start working under conditions which Czechs would not accept.

Inhabitants of Czech ghettoes and the homeless end up in a similar situation, Fercikova Konecna said.

Besides, in the past few years La Strada was dealing with the cases of people from the EU member states, Bulgaria and Romania, who became forced labourers in farming and forestry.

While in the past, La Strada mostly helped individuals, now groups of people, from five up to 20, have started to turn to it, Fercikova Konecna said.

These people arrived in the Czech Republic since they had been promised work with a certain pay level, accommodation and other conditions but the reality was different. They could leave any time but they had no financial means to do so, Fercikova Konecna explained.

According to experts, exploitation culprits do not use physical violence and restriction of personal freedom any more but they abuse their victims' desperate situation, language barrier and vulnerability.

This is why it is more difficult to prove a crime in such cases, Fercikova Konecna noted.

Last year Czech courts issued the first three verdicts in the cases of modern slavery in construction industry, work in asparagus fields and in a meat factory as well as hiring people from ghettoes to work in Britain, Fercikova Konecna recalled.

The verdicts have given other victims of forced labour hope to reach justice.

"However, this is just a tip of the iceberg. No one knows how big the iceberg is," Fercikova Konecna said.

A three-year project of La Strada Czech Republic, the Interior Ministry and the Judicial Academy has focused on the suppression of trafficking and an analysis of the situation.

Karel Bacovsky, from the Interior Ministry's security policy section, said a bill to better define the body of the crime of human trafficking had been worked out and approved by the government. The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament, is now to debate it.

According to the Eurostat EU statistical office, a quarter of trafficking victims were forced labourers and three fifths were forced into sexual services in 2008-2010.

However, last year's study of the International Labour Organisation shows that two-thirds of the cases concerned labour exploitation and one fifth forced prostitution.

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