U.S. Seafood Importers Accused of Human Trafficking in Recent Lawsuit
Rural Cambodian villagers have filed a lawsuit against four U.S. and Thai companies in a California Federal Court. The civil complaint accuses the joint venture of violating terms of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, created to prevent human trafficking. The villagers have accused the companies of trafficking them and making them work in forced-labor conditions throughout the Thai seafood industry.
The five men and two women who filed the suit claim that after leaving Cambodia for Thailand, factory managers took their passports so they could not leave the country. They also worked six days a week for wages much less than what was promised. For food, many resorted to eating seafood they found washed up on the beach. Their lead attorney Agnieska Fryszman told Thomson Reuters Foundation, “These are lovely, hard-working and decent people who really deserve better.”
In recent time, Thailand’s reputation has been damaged after multiple investigations by news organizations and rights groups into slavery, human trafficking, and violence across the multibillion dollar seafood industry which distributes goods around the world. Following the investigations, Thailand vowed to crack down on human trafficking and introduced reforms to its fisheries law, however unfortunately they have found themselves in trouble once again.
Many companies including retail giant, Walmart, buy shrimp and other seafood from the companies accused. Two of the companies even have U.S. offices, Rubicon Resources being located in Delaware,and Wales & Co. Universe Ltd. Located in California. The two Thai companies are Phatthana Seafood and S.S. Frozen Food. Most of the companies could not be reached, and Walmart has not yet responded for comment.
The exploited workers are seeking money for their unpaid wages, mental anguish,and physical abuse in the suit. These seven workers are just a small percentage of the 21 million people globally who are victims of forced labor in the industry that generates $150 billion a year in illegal profits according to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO).
Source: The New York Times