Human rights organizations and MEPs have denounced that European companies are using Cuban workers in conditions of semi-slavery.
On Wednesday, the NGO Prisoners Defenders , with the support of Human Rights Watch , accused MSC Cruises , among others, of taking advantage of the situation of workers on the Caribbean island, according to Euronews.
The cruise giant is said to be working with Selecmar (a company owned by the cuban government, is in charge of the selection of cruise ship workers), the Cuban authority that “loans” Cuban workers around the world.
According to Javier Larrondo, director of Prisoners Defenders, they have evidence that has been presented to the International Criminal Court. “We have a lot of evidence. These documents detail the appalling conditions of Cuban workers abroad. For example, the confiscation of their assets, including documents, and the prohibition to return to Cuba for eight years, keeping these workers away from their young children, if they leave their jobs or do not return to Cuba at the end of their contracts.”
Larrondo added “But we also have Cuban legislation [confirming this]. We also have work certificates from Selecmar that sells Cuban workers for luxury cruises and withholds 80% of the workers’ wages and [we also have] certificates from the Ministry of the Interior of Cuba that prove these allegations. All this is confirmed by more than 1,111 complaints.”
In response to Euronews, MSC Cruises said that “like all shipping companies, we had to hire our Cuban crew through Selecmar, as it was a requirement of the Cuban authorities. We have treated and will always treat all members of our crew equitably and fairly in terms of pay and working conditions on our ships, regardless of their nationality.”
The sale of services by the Cuban Selecmar includes medical and health services, but also the provision of sailing crews. Much of the money obtained, however, does not go to the workers, but to the Cuban government.
According to one of the vice-presidents of the European Parliament, Dita Charanzova, this scandal cannot be tolerated in Europe. “The European Union has a framework agreement with Cuba and in reality it was the European Parliament that had a condition during the ratification process of this agreement, which was a strong human rights clause. I think now is really the time to properly implement and enforce this agreement. And I think these cases show the urgency for the European Union to ban forced labour.”
The income generated by the international Cuban missions is the main source of income for the Cuban government abroad since at least 2005.