Liam Aylward, MEP for Ireland East and author of a European Parliament Report on combating child labour, this week lent his support to a student campaign to end child labour practices in Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is the third largest exporter of cotton in the world and much of the cotton harvested by children in slavery makes its way to the European Union market as garments produced in Asia.
Representatives from Anti-Slavery International and the students behind the campaign were present in the European Parliament this week to hand in their petition with 10,000 signatures and to demand that the European Union does more to protect children in Uzbekistan from slavery.
Speaking at the official signing of the petition in the European Parliament the Ireland East MEP stated:
“The students have undertaken this campaign in solidarity with the thousands of students in Uzbekistan who are forced from their schools each year during the cotton picking season. This use of child slavery and forced labour is a state-sponsored practice and one which NGOs and UNICEF have highlighted on a regular basis.
Children are threatened with expulsion from school for refusing to take part in the harvest. Those who fail to meet their quotas or who pick poor quality cotton are reportedly punished by beatings, detention or told their grades will suffer.”
The MEP has brought his concerns regarding cotton picked using child labour to the European Commission and European Parliament on several occasions, particularly in relation to the possible use of child labour cotton being used in the manufacture of euro notes.
“This student petition sends a powerful message to the European Union. Brussels must make it clear there will be no trade concessions to countries ignoring child slavery. It is great to see these young campaigners saying loud and clear: ‘this is unacceptable’ and they are willing to do something about it.”
Photo: Liam Aylward MEP signing the student petition on ending child labour practices in Uzbekistan in the European Parliament this week. Liam Aylward MEP signing the student petition on ending child labour practices in Uzbekistan in the European Parliament this week.