U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Global Trade Investigations Division announced July 31, a partnership with Liberty Shared, a nongovernmental organization with global coverage founded in Hong Kong, to combat forced labor in global commerce.
HSI’s forced labor programs coordinate and initiate criminal investigations into U.S.-bound supply chains whose goods are made wholly or in part by means of forced labor.
“Forced labor is a plague that cuts across multiple industries and sectors, and is a threat that must be met using a multi-faceted approach,” said Steve Francis, Assistant Director of HSI’s Global Trade Investigations Division. “With this new partnership, we can now leverage HSI’s broad legal authorities coupled with Liberty Shared’s vast capabilities to combat forced labor in a more holistic way.”
“We are very pleased to create a relationship with HSI to support their work in global trade enforcement against the use of forced labor in U.S.-bound supply chains, and hope that we will be able to contribute to the increased accountability of perpetrators and access to justice for their victims,” said Duncan Jepson, founder and Managing Director.
HSI is focused on eliminating forced labor worldwide, using existing enforcement mechanisms and potential criminal prosecutions of U.S.-based firms benefitting from, or having knowledge of, forced labor in their supply chains, as a deterrent and unique enforcement opportunity in the world. By using its unique authorities, and by partnering with organizations like Liberty Shared with information about corporate supply chains and financial flows, HSI seeks to gather information that will lead to successful prosecutions and significant steps being made in eliminating forced labor. By eliminating the financial draw of using forced labor, and any profit to be made by the exploitation of human beings to produce goods for market, HSI seeks to have a positive impact on reducing forced labor.
Businesses and individuals profiting from forced labor should be held accountable and liable. These are matters of criminal and civil law, not just questions of ethical conduct. At present, those benefiting directly and indirectly from engagement in forced labor activities may do so with seeming impunity and those providing the labor are often without access to justice. U.S. laws do provide a number of far-reaching mechanisms to hold accountable those engaging in and benefiting from forced labor.
With the new HSI partnership, a wider range of opportunities now exists to assist trade law enforcement approaches and strategies against forced labor and modern slavery and to share data, knowledge and research that will improve transparency and access to justice for victims.
Over the last seven years, Liberty Shared has been committed to building a global infrastructure to support the protection of vulnerable people with many partners in civil society, banking/finance, the legal industry, information service and technology providers. Partnerships with HSI and other entities help advance the cause of the many victims impacted by forced labor practices. and provide them with vital care.