Skip to content

Modern Slavery: Inhumane working conditions in fishing and agriculture industries.

According to a report published by the EU, exploitation is most likely to happen in the agricultural and fisheries industries.1 This plain truth is now also proved by recent incidents in these industries:

On Monday, 21st August three Californian companies filed a class action lawsuit against the US-American retailer Costco and its Thai fish food suppliers.  The companies adduced that Costco had bought and sold prawns  to companies, of whom the supermarket knew that  they were obtaining their feed from boats who kept men as slaves. One of the cooperating companies is the well known and largest worldwide, Thailand’s Charoen Pokhand (CP) Foods.

The class action lawsuit is a consequence of the Guardian’s investigations in 2014 which disclosed that men were bought and sold like animals on fishing boats. Victims who were able to escape, later told about 20-hour-working-shifts and regular beatings and murders on the boats.2

Hence, slavery seems to be part of the Thai prawn production, prawns which are later sold at leading supermarkets, including Tesco, Walmart, Carrefour, and Costco.2

In the meantime the exploitation of labour in agriculture seems to become an increasing problem especially in the south of Europe. The fact that the precarious working conditions and low wages are turned down by the local workers, but accepted by migrants without identity papers is a clear sign of the job market’s divergence.3

The largest number of the workers in the Andalusia agriculture industry is formed of migrants without documents working as day labourers. Being picked-up in the morning by the farmers and working for a pittance in the greenhouses constitutes their only chance to earn any money but without any prospect of social safeguarding of a better future.4

According to Gilles Reckinger, Professor of ethnology at the university of Innsbruck, forms of modern slavery are also likely to occur in Italian agriculture. In the context of his research work he tracked refugees after their arrival in Lampedusa on their quest of work and found out, that most of them ended up in inhumane working conditions living in accommodations made out of plastic and cardboard earning no more than 20 € a day.5

According to the “Global Slavery Index”, in 2014 35.8 million people globally lived in some form of modern slavery, the major part living in Asia.6

More information on inhumane working conditions in the Thai fishing industry are available here

  1. TAZ: Lohnsklaverei ist normal,!5202028/, 02.06.2012, abgerufen am 27.08.2015 []
  2. The Guardian: Costco and CP Foods face lawsuit over alleged slavery in prawn supply chain,, 19.08.2015, abgerufen am 27.08.2015 [] []
  3. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung: Tendenzen innereuropäischer Migration,, 11.11.2013, abgerufen am 27.08.2015 []
  4. AK 95: Der Druck wächst in Almería,ächst_in_Almería._Gewerkschaften_in_Andalusien_und_die_Rolle_der_ArbeitsmigrantInnen, 17.06.2015, abgerufen am 27.08.2015 []
  5. Universität Innsbruck: Das neue Gesicht der Sklaverei,, 10.06.2014, abgerufen am 27.08.2015  []
  6. The Global Slavery Index: Executive Summary 2014,, abgerufen am 27.08.2015 []