US sticks to position on child labour in Suriname

PARAMARIBO – The American Department of Labor (DOL) sticks to its earlier conclusion: Suriname has been justly blacklisted as one of the countries with dire child labour conditions. Surinamese Minister of Labour Michael Miskin has a whole different view.

The Americans are willing to discuss the report with Surinamese government officials ‘to find ways to address the concerns raised in our reports’, spokesperson Gloria Della says. ‘We always welcome the submission of any additional information on the situation of child labor in Suriname at any time, as we continue to monitor the issue.’ Miskin is looking forward to discussing the issue with the Americans. About a month ago he had a meeting with an American delegation and he is awaiting their feedback, he says.

Last September the US added Suriname, South Sudan and Vietnam to a blacklist containing 74 countries where forced labour and child labour are rife. The US states that children are exposed to hazardous work in mainly the gold industry. US DOL based its position in part on a report it commissioned by anthropologist Marieke Heemskerk. The scientist surveyed child labour in the gold industry and concluded that conditions in the hinterland are relatively mild compared to other countries.

Miskin agrees with that stance. The Minister tried to convince the Americans that these minors are the children of people employed in the gold industry. The American had persisted that the children do not belong in the gold mining areas, but Miskin cannot agree with that. He is quite irritated when he tells de Ware Tijd that he will not comment on Della’s latest statements, but rather wait for official contact from authorities in the US.

‘USDOL carefully reviewed and analyzed the report’, Della reacts when confronted with criticism from Suriname. ‘US DOL determined from the available evidence that it has a “reason to believe” that child labor is being used in Suriname’s gold mining sector in violation of international standards.’

The Heemskerk report, which she wrote together with Celine Duijves, states that children employed in the gold industry are exposed to mercury and have to carry out hazardous tasks. ‘Hazardous work is one of the worst forms of child labour, even when children are not forced and they are still allowed to go to school’, Della indicates.

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