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US immigration policies to push migrant workers further underground: researchers
[LONDON] US President Donald Trump's immigration policies will increase the risk of human trafficking and labour abuses against undocumented migrants by pushing them further underground, a report said on Thursday.
Low-paid sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and construction pose particular risks, said British firm Verisk Maplecroft, which identifies emerging risk areas for companies with global supply chains.
"Hardening immigration policy in the US, which is increasing the risk of labour abuses against undocumented workers, has emerged as one of the top drivers of human rights risks for business in 2017," Alex Channer, the group's principal analyst, wrote in the report.
Legislation in countries like Britain and the United States requires businesses to report on their efforts to eradicate forced labour and trafficking from their supply chains.
The report said companies in the shipping, cleaning, catering and security sectors, which tend to hire migrant workers on a temporary basis or as casual labour, are particularly susceptible to modern slavery blind spots.
"The seafarers who transport 80 percent of global trade, and the truckers and workers who store and pack goods in warehouses, are mostly invisible in supply chains," the report said.
Similarly, low-skilled, low-paid workers who provide support services like cleaning, security and catering are often forgotten when companies conduct human rights assessments.
As more countries adopt anti-slavery laws, failure to audit these blind spots in the supply chain could lead to more scrutiny and penalties for businesses, Verisk Maplecroft said.
Trump in January called for the construction of a wall across the country's southern border, which he said would stem the flow of drugs, crime and illegal immigration into the country.
Even with the wall, criminal gangs would adapt and find more costly ways to smuggle workers across the border, such as by air or by sea, the report said.
"As trafficking fees increase, undocumented migrants will become more deeply mired in debt and, hence, more vulnerable to exploitation," the report said.
Companies involved in land deals in emerging economies will also be subjected to further scrutiny in 2017, and claiming ignorance of land rights violations will no longer be a viable defence for banks and investors, Verisk Maplecroft said.
As commodities such as palm oil, sugar cane and bio fuels drive global demand for land, it said companies should do their due diligence on land deals to avoid finding themselves embroiled in forced evictions or other human rights abuses.