Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Stop Using Forced Labor!
Target: Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Goal: To make mining companies monitor human rights abuses occurring in their operations abroad and bring light to forced labor in Eritrea.
International mining companies must stop mining in Eritrea if claims of forced labor persist. Those companies that wish to mine for gold and other resources in Eritrea must be diligent in investigating claims of forced labor and other human rights abuses on their mining sites. They must also not engage in business with any contractor implicated in the use of forced labor and insist on their right to investigate any allegations of abuse. Currently, the government in Eritrea makes it very difficult for humanitarian aid groups to access the country and investigate the claims themselves. Therefore, these companies and their home governments must regulate and monitor the human rights practices of contractors that they employ in high-risk areas such as Eritrea. By monitoring these practices more closely and applying pressure to abusive companies, the occurrence of forced labor may diminish.
The first company to begin drilling in Eritrea, Nevsun, failed to take the risk of forced labor seriously and once the company acknowledged the problem, it struggled to properly address the issue. Nevsun, a Canadian based mining company, opened a mine in Bisha in 2011. That year it accrued $614 million worth of gold ore. The problem with the operation was its reliance on workers from the Eritrea National Mining Corporation, a state-owned mining firm. Eritrea’s government runs a ‘national service’ program that conscripts citizens into indefinite terms of forced labor. Human rights groups have previously reported that this program subjects civilians to torture and other human rights abuses so that the government may profit. There are also reports of retaliation against families if a conscript escapes from their post. Most of these conscripts are sent to the military, but a select number are taken to state owned and operated companies.
This practice of forced labor and military service must be ended and international companies and governments must do all that they can in order to not allow its survival as a credible option for the Eritrean government. Sign this petition and demand that international mining companies no longer rely on forced labor when drilling in Eritrea.
Dear Prime Minister Stephen Harper,
If mining companies are going to operate in Eritrea, they need to make sure that their operations are not based around the use of forced labor. If this is not an option for the company, it must be removed from the situation and reported it to its home government. The continued use of forced labor in Eritrea for state gain is a human rights abuse that can no longer be tolerated. International agencies and governments must do all they can to discourage the practice of ‘national service’ and the best way to do this is to remove the economic incentives that keeps innocent civilians working against their will.
By taking a stand against the use of forced labor in Eritrea, the international community will set a positive precedent of monitoring the human rights records of its companies abroad. Governments should press these companies to uphold high standards and investigate claims of human rights abuses in their operations. Doing so will enable change in the Eritrean mining industry. I urge you to take action now.
[Your Name Here]
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