HTMSE’s Founder and Director Appears Before Home Affairs Select Committee on Modern Slavery

Earlier this year our founder and director Philippa Southwell was called to give oral evidence as a legal expert in the Home Affairs Select Committee Modern Slavery Inquiry. As well as giving oral evidence our director Philippa also gave written evidence. Issues that were raised during the inquiry concern the Modern Slavery Act 2015, in particular the section 45 modern slavery defence and excluded schedule 4 offences, and section 54 corporate modern slavery compliance. Also of note were concerns regarding the exploitation of British national minors involved in child criminal exploitation in the forms of forced drug possession, robbery, burglaries, and weapons running. Philippa gave legal analysis on all of these topics. Further areas of focus by the inquiry were:

  • The detention of Modern Slavery victims in immigration removal centres, and the adequacy of policy in relation to victims of modern slavery and human trafficking being held in immigration detention centres.
  • The role of the independent anti-slavery commissioner and the relationship between the different law enforcement agencies, e.g. the police, NCA, GLAA, etc, with the national referral mechanism was a major focus of the evidence given by law enforcement professionals and the former Independent UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
  • and, Victim, and victim support services’, perspectives on policy and support available to victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.

The evidence for the inquiry was presented as a combination of oral and written evidence and is drawn from a wide variety of professionals and organisations representing a broad spectrum of sectors. At present those who have given evidence include legal practitioners from a wide range of specialisms; the NGO sector; law enforcement professionals and organisations, including the Home Office, NCA, Local Authorities and multiple police forces; Academic institutions and the research sector; various corporate bodies; and multiple individual experts and specialist organisations.

The Home Affairs Select Committee Modern Slavery Inquiry is ongoing, with oral evidence continuing to be heard. The final findings have yet to be announced. Both the written and oral evidence that have been heard as part of the inquiry, including those submitted by Philippa Southwell, can be found here.

The Rise of Technological Responses to Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Technology and Human Trafficking

Technology, and in particular mobile applications, is being increasingly identified as an important method of tackling modern slavery and human trafficking. Mobile applications have recently been responsible for the identification of nearly 1000 cases of modern slavery in car washes around the country. With the release of the Modern Slavery Helpline annual report for 2018, which recorded approximately 1 in 7 reports were made by webform submissions or through the Unseen App, it is clear that there is a rising awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK and a significant proportion of reports are made through technological methods.

However, mobile applications are not the only technologies being identified and implemented to help tackle modern slavery and human trafficking. So far in 2019 there have been several reports of new implementations of technology to combat modern slavery and human trafficking. For example, satellite imaging being recently used in a study by Nottingham University to accurately map the number of brick kilns in India. Brick kilns in India, which are associated with the exploitation of labourers through forced labour and debt bondage, exhibit unique features that can be mapped by satellite imaging and it is hoped that other industries associated with modern slavery may be vulnerable to satellite imaging too; scaling this use of technology into a major method of tackling modern slavery in remote areas. By contrast, algorithms that measure activity against a set of variables have been piloted by banks in the Netherlands to identify unusual behaviour that may be indicative of human trafficking or modern slavery.

However, whilst the use of technology to combat human trafficking and modern slavery is advancing in new directions and receiving high profile acclaim concerns have been raised that technology merely constitutes a tool and its use alone may not be enough. TechUK, an organisation responsible for representing approximately 900 companies that develop technology, has raised concerns that for technological tools to be truly effective corporations need to ensure they have a strong anti-slavery culture with a willingness to act. Whilst strong corporate and social anti-slavery cultures are vital, the development of technological tools and processes to target human trafficking and modern slavery demonstrate positive commitments by a wide range of actors to tackling these issues. Many of these technological developments are recognised as new and as these tools are refined it is quite possible that technology will take play a greater role in combating human trafficking and modern slavery.

Modern Slavery Act 2018- What does it do?

Australia_Parliament_House_Lauri_Vain
Photo Credit: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre; Lauri Väin

New Modern Slavery Act 2018 in Australia introduces strict reporting requirements for businesses among other key objectives.

There has been significant interest recently over the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (MSA) in Australia, and its likely coming into force in early 2019. The act will carry with it significant thresholds for businesses to meet in terms of reporting requirements. But what is the new act?

Section 3 (Part 1) of the MSA 2018 details the main objectives of the act are to:

  • Combat modern slavery,
  • Provide assistance and support for victims,
  • Establish an Anti-Slavery Commissioner,
  • Provide for detection and exposure of modern slavery,
  • Raise community awareness and provide education on modern slavery,
  • Encourage collaborative cross-sector and multi-agency responses,
  • Introduce provisions for the ongoing assessment of anti-slavery laws,
  • Criminalise forced marriage,
  • and, penalise further involvement in cybersex trafficking and CSE.

 

Statistically reports of  modern slavery in Australia are low in comparison to other countries, but there are concerns this is because of a lack of awareness on the matter. As part of this, there are concerns that businesses are not fully aware of the risks of modern slavery in their supply chains. Part of the act focuses on supply chain transparency, and appears to be heavily oriented towards tackling these issues. The focus on business accountability and corporate supply chains suggests a main focus on forced labour, which is not unsurprising given forced labour accounted for approximately half of all modern slavery cases in the ILO’s 2016 statistics. However, the objective statements of the act regarding forced marriage and child exploitation demonstrate the wide reaching and comprehensive aims of the act to eradicate modern slavery in all forms.

A link to the act itself can be found here.

Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility
Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been understood and conceptually used since the 1990s, yet only recently gained weight in legal terms. It was designed to hold businesses accountable for the environmental wellbeing and human rights within their production and supply chains that they financially benefit from, and in turn to uphold the rights of the most vulnerable sector of society – children.

The importance of child rights

The interaction between businesses and children is inevitable, as people under 18 years old make up a third of the worlds population. The importance of this interaction, whether as consumers, relations to employees or young workers themselves is critical because childhood is the most fundamental stage of development, where young people are more sensitive both to psychological and physical harm. Furthermore, they are most vulnerable to violence and abuse, deeming defenceless when forced into certain situations either out of desperation or before their own autonomy has developed to protest. If they are exposed to hazardous operations whether directly or indirectly, they are at high risk of mental and physical damage. In extreme yet unfortunately widespread cases of child labour exploitation within supply chains, for domestic work or other forms of illicit labour, the consequences to a child’s wellbeing can be irreversible.

Furthermore, the wellbeing of children is important to the long-term economic growth within communities. 215 million children are engaged in child labour worldwide, and 101 million children are not attending primary school. By being exploited from a young age, the stunt in education that children undergo will ultimately feedback negatively on the future overall productivity rates of businesses within certain economies.

The development of CSR

In the development CSR, rights observers have understood that corporate interests generally outweigh the voluntary demand for an ethical and socially responsible supply chain. There are various examples of CSR that have developed, which compels corporations to comply with legal standards. For example the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 that that dictates national legal standards, which requires corporations to publish the steps they are taking to ensure their supply chains and free of modern slavery, child labour, human trafficking. This regulation applies both domestically and for international sourcing, in which certain export standards of mandatory social compliance are placed onto developing countries with cheap labour. The California Transparency in Supply Chain Act (CTSCA) 2010 operates similar obligations but working at state level. The Indian Companies Act (2013) compels Indian corporations to spend 2% of their pre-tax profit on CSR.

How Child Rights fit into CSR

Although such legislation is aimed more broadly at achieving supply chain transparency, upholding child rights is a key element of this. Specifically, there is a set of 10 Child Rights and Business Principles as outlined by Save the Children, the UN Global Compact and UNICEF, which give a comprehensive yet non-exhaustive list of CSR requirements in relation to child rights. Corporations must:

  1. Meet their responsibility to respect children’s rights and commit to supporting the human rights of children
  2. Contribute to the elimination of child labour, including in all business activities and business relationships
  3. Provide decent work for young workers, parents and caregivers
  4. Ensure the protection and safety of children in all business activities and facilities
  5. Ensure that products and services are safe, and seek to support children’s rights through them
  6. Use marketing and advertising that respect and support children’s rights
  7. Respect and support children’s rights in relation to the environment and to land acquisition and use
  8. Respect and support children’s rights in security arrangements
  9. Help protect children affected by emergencies
  10. Reinforce community and government efforts to protect and fulfil children’s rights

As this literature points out, the rights of children are no ‘new legal obligation’, instead are innate human rights, which in turn drives CSR. This can be broken down into the Corporate Responsibility to Respect, which applies to the business’s own activities and to its business relationships, linked to its operations, products or services” as well as the Corporate Commitment to Support, which demands voluntary actions that seek to advance human rights, including children’s rights, through core business activities, strategic social investments and philanthropy, advocacy and public policy engagement, and working in partnership and other collective action.”

The focus of CSR towards children aims to eliminate child labour from supply chains, but also must take the nuanced approach which includes protecting the rights of children in their core business strategy, covering all operations, employee rights, marketing, and delivery of products and services.

The aim is for states to be responsible by implementing such CSR legislation to level out the injustices and inequalities of the world’s wealthiest corporations taking advantage of the worlds most poor and vulnerable. Although this works ideologically, the problem comes with implementation. Limitations with CSR studies show that even passive state regulation does not necessarily lead to thorough commitment to supply chains free of human rights abuses and environmental degradation by corporations. Trends show most corporations only apply resource to CSR when receiving pressure from external organisations. Hence, it takes active pressure by rights groups, NGOs and governments to achieve this, indicating the critical role of UNICEF and organisations to lobby against corporate interests. For CSR to be achieved, strict legal requirements and binding commitments must be met with appropriate sanctions as means of compulsion to achieve child rights.

Anti-Slavery Progress in Mauritania

Rights campaigners had criticised an initial decision to release on bail two men accused of keeping women and children as slaves. By Scott Olson (Getty/AFP/File)
Image by Scott Olson (Getty/AFP/File)

With a hereditary system of servitude, Mauritania has previously demonstrated significantly low slavery prosecution rates. In 1981 slavery was deemed illegal, but the sanctions were increased in 2015 with punishment of 20 years imprisonment recognising slavery as a ‘crime against humanity’.

Two recent ground breaking cases in the country have led to the sentence of two guilty of enslavement to 20 years. The primary victim of this case died before the case conclusion, who alongside his son, were reduced to slavery.

Another defendant was sentenced to 10 years in prison for keeping three women as domestic servants a without pay. Although the defence put forward the argument of treating the servants ‘like family’, the court ruled that slavery is a crime no matter how ‘gentle’.

These verdicts mark significant progress in the slavery case law of Mauritania, marking the success of the legislation and the three tribunals to address modern slavery established in the country. Similar cases that have been pending for several years will be reactivated according to authorities, signifying the normalisation of human rights issues being upheld by law.

Read here for the full article on these Rare Slavery Rulings in Mauritania Sending Three to Prison.

Tribute: International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

More than 15 million people were enslaved in Africa and sold during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which constitutes the largest legally sanctioned forced movement of people in history. Spread over 400 years, 96% of those enslaved arrived in the Americas and remain a prominent foothold in the demographic. This year being its 70th anniversary, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains a foundation document in international law and slavery legislation:

“Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.’’

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledges this and makes a tribute to International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade this week on 25th March. Denoting this period as one of the most brutal and shameful eras in human history and remembering those who died and suffered, he aims to spread the message of equality and remind of the ‘dangers of racism and prejudice’ in social thought. Although modern slavery has changed form and means, much of our understanding is grounded in the history of the Transatlantic slavery era.

For the full tribute on the Victims of Transatlantic Slave Trade read here. 

World Day of Social Justice 2018: Focus on Migrant Worker Exploitation  

IFAD Remittances, the money migrant workers send home to their families, provide crucial financial support for millions of people in developing countries.
IFAD Remittances, the money migrant workers send home to their families, provide crucial financial support for millions of people in developing countries.

The UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) addresses the ‘World Day of Social Justice’ today, the 20th February by focusing on the rights of migrant workers. There are 150 million migrant workers worldwide, and 44% of which are women. Migration is most often fuelled or connected to the need for employment, therefore workers are acutely vulnerable to forced labour, coercion, discrimination and exploitation in unsatisfactory working conditions because they are overtly dependent on their employer in unfamiliar territory.

Director-General of ILO, Guy Ryder acknowledges that ‘’many migrant workers end up trapped in jobs with low pay and unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, often in the informal economy, without respect for their labour and other human rights. They often have to pay high recruitment fees to get a job, on average over a year’s wages – this makes them highly vulnerable to forced labour and child labour.”

If migrant labour is met with respect for human rights and basic working conditions according to the international labour standards, their contribution will deliver benefits to the host community as well as the families of those who are forced to migrate. This must be adopted at a global, national and regional level, and governance must be coherent between labour ministries and businesses.  The Global Compact on Migration will be amended later this year and will be essential to eliminating exploitation within migrant labour, and in turn contributing to social justice.

Read here for full details on ILO’s contribution to World Day of Social Justice 2018. 

 

Today, Over 200 Million are Subjugated to Female Genital Mutilation, UN Reports

This week on February the 6th marked the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This practice is recognised as a violation of human rights against girls and women, and is an underlying cause of deep gender inequality.

The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, speaks at the forum in Banjul, the Gambia. Photo: Alhagie Manka
The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, speaks at the forum in Banjul, the Gambia. Photo: Alhagie Manka

Statistics produced from the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth in Gambia on Monday report that ‘’globally, over 200 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone some form of genital mutilation and girls aged 14 and younger account for about 44 million of those who have been “cut.”

Despite recent figures of FGM having declined, the Female genital mutilation ‘not acceptable’ in the 21st century – UN envoy on youth highlight the fact that in many of these counties, populations are rapidly growing, which means proportionately the numbers will increase.

Although the reasons for FGM lie in cultural, religious or traditional practices and are sometimes perpetrated by women through their own autonomous decisions, it ultimately aims at ensuring females are subservient to their husbands, and therefore an oppressive force beyond the accepted social framework.

Elimination of FGM is included in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed to by all Member States. Many countries have moved towards this by criminalising these harmful activities, including Gambia in 2015. However, on top of a legal framework to reduce the physical harm, all stakeholders are needed to accept a shift in status quo against acts that historically perpetrate inequality.

Read the full report here:

Female genital mutilation ‘not acceptable’ in the 21st century – UN envoy on youth