Spotlight News 11/5/2015

Belgian Police Recover $7.8 Million of Stolen Pharmaceuticals, No Arrests Made

Police in Belgium found a trailer carrying $7.82 million of pharmaceuticals in a warehouse in Opglabbeek, located in the east of the country, after it was stolen several days earlier. The driver of the vehicle left the trailer unattended over a weekend in the town of Peer, also located in eastern Belgium, and returned to find it had been stolen. The trailer was carrying a refrigerated load of insulin and other unspecified medicines. Police are still searching for the thieves.

Though the threat of cargo theft in Belgium is High, thefts of pharmaceuticals in the country are rare. It is possible that the thieves in this instance were opportunists who targeted the unattended trailer. Theft of trucks and trailers parked in unsecured areas, along with pilferage from parked trailers, account for the majority of cargo thefts in Belgium. 

Migrant Laborers Subjected to Forced Labor, Poor Working Conditions, and Low Pay on Fishing Vessels in Ireland, Underscores Role of Labor Brokers

A new investigative report has revealed poor working conditions and forced labor on Irish fishing vessels. A loophole in EU immigration law allows migrant workers, often recruited in their home countries by labor brokers, to pass through United Kingdom and Ireland on a transit visa en route to the ships. The transit visas are not intended to be used for workers on ships based in Irish waters. Workers, who typically hail from Egypt, Ghana, the Philippines, and India, often arrive on the ships heavily indebted to the labor brokers who arranged their employment.

Once on the vessels, workers are subjected to extreme sleep deprivation, are paid less than half the Irish minimum wage, and are forced to work for many days in a row with no rest days or overtime payments. These conditions have led to fatal accidents on some Irish fishing trawlers. The UK and Irish governments have stated that they are aware of the issue and are working to combat the labor trafficking.

Aside from the loophole that fishing vessels exploit to get workers on to their ships, these incidents highlight the involvement of labor brokers in exploitative employment situations. Labor recruitment agencies often arrange for employment in a number of the countries BSI identifies as having High or Severe working conditions ratings. However, the use of labor recruiting can allow for poor working conditions even in lower-risk countries such as Ireland. Fees owed to labor recruiters may leave workers in a state of debt bondage, unable to leave their current jobs. Additionally, the fishing industry is difficult to regulate since poor working conditions occur on boats that are far out at sea for days or weeks at a time.