In July 2019 the UK Government released it’s response to the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which was published earlier in the year. The Review appointed experts to advise on the following four sections of the act, making a total of 80 recommendations:
- The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (s 40-44)
- Transparency in Supply Chains (s 54)
- Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (s 48)
- Legal Application (specifically s 3 on the meaning of exploitation, s 8-10
on Slavery and Trafficking Reparation Orders and s 45 on the statutory defence).
The response to the Independent Review sets out several actions the UK Government will be taking to address some of the recommendations, including the launching of a public consultation about transparency in supply chains and the announcement of £10 million for the development of a new modern slavery policy and evidence centre. The policy and evidence research centre will involve academics, charities and firms. However, whilst the new centre has been described as having great potential to improve knowledge on human trafficking and modern slavery there are some concerns that the new initiative is being developed while policy is failing in other areas.
The full UK Government response can be found here.
On the 17th July HTMSE attended the Tech4Good awards as a shortlisted finalist in the Community Impact Award category.The Tech4Good awards recognise the use of technology to make a social difference across a variety of different sectors, such as accessibility, connectivity, inclusivity and community impact.
Contemporary slavery is a current global issue, which directly affects even the corporate and commercial markets with the introduction of the s54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act, and similar legislation in the USA and Australia. Furthermore, the migrant crisis and forced migration has also compounded human trafficking and modern slavery, it has become an ever present issue and there has been an increase in media and public awareness on this topic. Almost 21 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery, which generates $150 billion for traffickers each year and is a growing market.
The Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery Expert Directory (HTMSE) is an e-commerce initiative founded in 2015 by leading human trafficking lawyer Philippa Southwell, after identifying a desperate need for a single resource for professionals working in the counter human trafficking and modern slavery sector. The directory is an advanced search engine established in order to link specialists not just within the UK based legal community, but to connect with lawyers, medical experts, academics and corporate stakeholders globally that can advance development on this issue, and create the link between modern slavery victims and support. This use of technology in the counter-trafficking and anti-slavery sectors is unique, with the majority of technology being used to monitor and research victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, research and monitor suspected offenders, and to provide ongoing support to law enforcement agencies.
Since its launch, the initiative has established itself as a leading global directory. It enables individuals to search for professionals by their specialist fields and location worldwide.
The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, has released a report warning of an impending ‘climate apartheid’. ‘Climate apartheid’ is considered to be a state of affairs that will be brought on by climate change where wealthier individuals can pay to move and avoid rising heat and hunger, leaving poorer communities behind. This issue has been described as posing a great threat to human rights and the rule of law, in particular such a state of affairs may contribute to an increase in human trafficking.
The conditions for human trafficking can be generated effectively by natural disasters. Specifically natural disasters create conditions where individuals are vulnerable, and whilst these vulnerabilities may be linked to a variety of different factors one of the most significant is homelessness (See HTMSE’s blog on Human Trafficking and Homelessness here). The International Organisation for Migration has identified a particular nexus that exists between human trafficking and climate change. In particular, the increased risk of natural disasters posed by climate change, as well as the social strain caused by climate change which can lead to conflict, poverty, and instability, tends to a more general possibility that climate change may be a major contributor to increases in human trafficking in the near future. However, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) states that the overlap between human trafficking and climate change is largely un-researched and scholarship on this topic is limited. Drawing on practitioner reports and available research the IOM describes the impact of sudden and slow onset natural disasters on the risk of human trafficking. Sudden natural disasters were identified as driving an irregular pattern of migration as individuals attempt to leave the affected zone and trafficking from refugee camps set up in response to the situation. Slow onset disasters, such as coastal erosion or repeated droughts damaging arable land, also drives the risk of human trafficking by increasing outmigration, increasing poverty, and potentially unemployment. It is these slow onset disasters in particular that may fuel a situation similar to that of ‘climate apartheid’.
Given that ‘climate apartheid’ will be generated by those with means leaving areas that are slowly rendered inhospitable by climate change it is apparent that measures are required to limit the risks of human trafficking and other human rights abuses. NGO’s have suggested that long-term recovery strategies for sudden natural disasters, such as hurricanes, should incorporate plans to address the increased risk of human trafficking. The IOM similarly advocates that with slow onset disasters long term plans for tackling the issues of climate change should also address the changes to social environments that are conducive to human trafficking. Similarly, efforts addressing human trafficking ought to also account for potential changes in the social environment that may be effected by climate change.
Overall it appears likely that the social impacts of climate change could lead to an increased risk of human trafficking and modern slavery, particularly in areas where climate change causes natural disasters. However, in both slow onset and sudden natural disasters it is possible to mitigate the increased risk of human trafficking by ensuring effective recovery and law enforcement practices are built into long term strategies.