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12/02  '97  11:43   FAX


Convention No. 29: Forced Labour. 1930

Observation 1991

in the event of failure to perform specified work brings that work within the scope of the Convention.

    The Committee notes that in its report, the Government restates its position to the effect that social welfare is of a subsidiary nature and that all recipients of social welfare must accept the work offered. The Government adds that asylum seekers are comparable with Germans who are unable to find employment: asylum seekers are prevented from working on legal grounds, unemployed Germans on factual grounds. Just as unemployed Germans are required to take into consideration the jobs offered to them, the same is required of asylum seekers; otherwise, asylum seekers would be better off than unemployed Germans.

    The Committee takes note of these indications. It considers that the situation o£ asylum seekers cannot be compared to that of unemployed Germans as the law prohibits asylum seekers from taking up employment for a period of five years. Only if such a prohibition were lifted would asylum seekers be in a situation comparable to that of unemployed Germans in search of work.

    The Committee also takes note of the DGB's observations to the effect that the provisions of the Federal Social Assistance Act make it possible to compel the asylum seeker to take up work paid below the minimum market level, and notes the Government's reply to the effect that the work offered is linked to the offer of assistance, but the withdrawal of assistance is not a sanction on the refusal to take up the employment in question but the more general refusal to perform acceptable work.

    The Committee recalls that the subsidiary nature of social assistance which implies that one should seek regular employment rather than exist on welfare, is a principle which applies to persons who are free to accept regular work but not to persons who are legally incapacitated because the right to engage in gainful employment has been intentionally withheld from them by an Act of Parliament. If the same persons are then faced with the choice of losing their livelihood in the form of welfare entitlements or having to engage in specific menial services, such services, although legally defined as something other than work, come within the scope of Article 2(1) of the Convention and are not covered by any of the exceptions in Article 2(2). As the Committee pointed out previously, labour performed under such conditions is not part of the normal civic obligations of the citizens of a fully self-governing country.

    The Committee again asks the Government to re-examine its position and to take the necessary measures to ensure the observation of the Convention with regard to asylum seekers.

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