The United States has banned tobacco and tobacco products imported from Malawi.
The Customs and Border Protection on Friday issued a “Withhold Release Order” against tobacco and tobacco from Malawi following concerns that they were produced using forced labour.
This means tobacco produced in Malawi will be detained at the US borders.
“Malawi tobacco is one of those areas where we are trying to send a message,” CBP Office of Trade Executive Assistant Commissioner Brenda Smith said.
According to the US Department of Labor, despite some advancement in preventing child labour, children in Malawi are still engaged in the worst forms of child labour, including in the harvesting of tobacco and in commercial sexual exploitation.
The order against tobacco from Malawi was issued a day after a law firm in the United Kingdom announced that almost 2000 tobacco tenant farmers, including hundreds of children, from Malawi are taking legal action against British American Tobacco accusing them of forced and child labour.
According to the firm, Leigh Day, the group of farmers and their family members accuse the tobacco company of unjust enrichment, namely that they made huge profits from the leaves that were picked by the farmers who were effectively forced to work for very little pay under fear, duress and false pretences and were left no option but to put their children to work on the farms too.