Suriname on child labour watch list

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO – The United States Department of Labour claims Suriname still offers little protection against child labour, and has therefore added Suriname, South Sudan and Vietnam to the list of 74 countries in which child labour and human trafficking are a serious problem.

The Labour Department also acknowledges, however, that the international economic crisis is slowing efforts to eradicate such child abuses by 2016. A report about the situation in Suriname states that children work in gold mines, where they are exposed to mercury poisoning and extreme heat and are running the risk of being injured due to accidents or landslides.

The report also expresses concern about child prostitution in mining areas. Labour (ATM) Minister Michael Miskin doubts the veracity of the report, however, saying, “I’ve spoken with the Labour Inspectorate, the gold sector restructuring commission and the police who have visited these areas, and they claim this is not what they’ve found.” The Minister will consult with his counterpart of Foreign Affairs today to find out what information has been used to place Suriname on the watch list. “I personally think this is very strange,” Miskin says.

The Americans claim Suriname made minimal progress in 2011 to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, but has made efforts to raise awareness about human and child trafficking. Yet the country has no list of activities that are considered dangerous to children, and the minimum age for employment is not equal to the age for compulsory education. The report also claims Suriname has no national policy to combat child labor. Yvonne Caprino, manager of the Foundation Projects Protestant Christian Education Suriname, says Suriname’s placement on the list must be considered an alarm signal. In a first reaction, she calls the report’s contents “very serious,” but adds Suriname itself should investigate whether the information is correct. “If that is the case, we must do something about it.” Caprino also believes measures must be taken as long as child labor exists. “We must join hands and solve it together, because it is about our children, our country,” is her desperate cry.

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