U.S. NEWS

U.S. Detains Imports From 5 Countries Over Forced Labor Suspicions

Items from China, Malaysia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Brazil were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.

Federal authorities have detained products suspected of being produced using forced labor from entering the United States in a rare crackdown targeting foreign worker abuses.

Products from five countries ― China, Malaysia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Brazil ― were halted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials on Monday, the law enforcement agency said.

This followed the CBP receiving information that the products were produced in whole or in part using forced labor, prompting it to issue withhold release orders.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained foreign imports of garments, disposable rubber gloves, mined gold and rough
U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained foreign imports of garments, disposable rubber gloves, mined gold and rough diamonds, and bone black under suspicions they were made with forced labor.

“CBP’s issuing of these five withhold release orders shows that if we suspect a product is made using forced labor, we’ll take that product off U.S. shelves,” acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said in a statement.

The items included garments, disposable rubber gloves, mined gold and rough diamonds, and bone black, which is a black pigment created from animal bones.

It is illegal to import goods into the U.S. that are made wholly or in part by forced labor. This includes the use of convict labor, indentured labor, and forced or indentured child labor.

A Zimbabwean worker holds a piece of rough diamond from the country's Marange diamond fields. Rough diamonds from the diamond
A Zimbabwean worker holds a piece of rough diamond from the country's Marange diamond fields. Rough diamonds from the diamond fields were detained by federal agents on Monday under suspicions that they were mined from forced labor.

Halting imports under such suspicions is not common, however, with only one other WRO issued this year, according to CBP’s website. That order involved the importation of seafood.

The products and manufacturers accused of using forced labor are identified as:

  • Hetian Taida Apparel Co., in Xinjiang, China, which produces garments.

  • WRP Asia Pacific Sdn. Bhd. in Malaysia, which produces disposable rubber gloves.

  • Bonechar Carvão Ativado Do Brasil Ltda in Brazil, which manufactures bone black.

  • Gold mined in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

  • Rough diamonds from the Marange Diamond Fields in Zimbabwe.

The Brazilian bone black manufacturer, which goes by the name Bonechar, denied the labor abuse allegations when reached by HuffPost on Tuesday. In an email, a representative for the company provided a copy of a petition it had filed to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative back in April that accuses a North American competitor of making false labor complaints in an effort to harm its business.

Bonechar identified itself as the sole Brazilian exporter of bone black to the U.S., making it a target for the other company that imports bone black from Mexico.

Attempts to reach the other companies for comment were not immediately successful.

Hetian Taida Apparel Co. was in the news last year after The Associated Press revealed that one of its factories in China operated inside an internment camp that targeted members of ethnic minority groups. Its shipments were tracked to a North Carolina clothing supplier, which sells clothing to college campuses and sports teams nationwide. The supplier cut ties with the company in response.

This story has been updated with a response from the Brazilian company Bonechar.

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