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Some implications of using the term ‘modern slavery’

This week we welcome a guest post by Mike Dottridge. The author was the director of Anti-Slavery International between 1996 and 2002. For the past decade he has worked independently as a consultant on human rights and child rights issues. In 2002 Mike was one of the experts invited by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to help prepare a set of Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking(issued by the High Commissioner in May 2002). He is the author of numerous publications on issues linked to exploitation and trafficking, including a UNICEF reference guide on child trafficking. 

It was in August 2013, when UK Home Secretary Theresa May announced that she intended to present a Bill on ‘modern slavery’, that Britain once again began invoking the memory of William Wilberforce and the 200-year old campaign against slavery in its efforts to combat human trafficking. Caroline Parkes has already pointed out weaknesses in the provisions of the draft Bill published last December.

So what are the reasons for and against using the term ‘modern slavery’ to describe the patterns of exploitation occurring in the UK today that many British MPs and other people think should be illegal? (more…)

Trapped at sea. Using the legal and regulatory framework to combat trafficking at sea.

Once again, we welcome Rebecca Surtees from the NEXUS InstituteThis post is adapted from “Trapped at sea. Using the Legal and Regulatory Framework to Prevent and Combat the Trafficking of Seafarers and Fishers”, published in 2013 in the Groningen Journal of International Law. Vol. 1, No. 2: Human Trafficking. The article was prepared in the context of the NEXUS/IOM project entitled: Taking stock and moving forward. Considering methods, ethics and approaches in trafficking research and data collection, funded by U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP). The original article is also available at www.NEXUSInstitute.net and www.WarnathGroup.com.

Recognition of the diversity of trafficking for forced labour in recent years has included increased attention to exploitation within the seafaring and commercial fishing industries. It is clear, based upon our research, not only that human trafficking takes place, but that such cases are aided by sector-specific aspects that heighten levels of risk and vulnerability for seafarers and fishers that may lend themselves to abuses, such as isolation at sea, lax regulation, oversight and enforcement, and limited contact with authorities on land and at sea.   (more…)

The Transparency in UK Company Supply Chains Bill: three lessons

Our guest post for this week has been written by Nicola Phillips; Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sheffield, UK. Professor Phillips currently holds a Major Research Fellowship from The Leverhulme Trust, which was awarded in 2010 for three years, for work on forced labour and human trafficking in the global and UK economies. She writes and speaks extensively on these issues, and is working on a book on the global political economy of forced labour and human trafficking which (she hopes!) will be completed by the end of this year.  

The issues of human trafficking and slavery in global supply chains have been somewhat in vogue of late, particularly in the United States. The state of California brought into force its innovative Transparency in Supply Chains (TISC) Act in 2012, obliging large firms doing business in or with California to report on the steps that they are taking to address trafficking in their supply chains. The focus on supply chains was central to US President Barack Obama’s major statement on trafficking in September 2012, and labour rights made a strong showing in the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed in 2011. (more…)

Extended misery: punishing victims

April proved to be a trying month for the UK Government’s relationship with Europe on the issue of human trafficking.  The deadline for the implementation of Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims was in mid-April and, as organisations such as ECPAT have been advocating, the Government is continuing to fail to put in place adequate measures to protect victims of trafficking from prosecution.  The Directive establishes minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and sanctions in human trafficking and seeks to improve the protection of victims.  An examination of recent cases before the Court of Appeal have shown that implicit in the UK’s approach to this issue is the fact that victims are not being identified at an early enough stage in the criminal justice process. (more…)

No, Man is an island. Without a strategy: the absence of policy in the CTA.

A few months ago, I met with an old childhood friend who is currently undertaking a PhD in the UK on human trafficking.  While reminiscing about growing up on the Isle of Man, we wondered if trafficking was an issue on the Island.  For those unfamiliar with the Isle of Man, it is in the middle of the Irish Sea, population 84,497; the main source of income is the provision of financial services and its status as a tax haven.  Of the resident population, only 4%, as of 2001, were born outside the British Isles.  Multi-cultural and ethnically diverse, the Island is not.  But, more recently, there has been an increase in work permits issued to non-European Economic Area (EAA) nationals: “During 2005/06 NI [national insurance – tied to holding a work permit] numbers were issued to people from Poland (271), India (155), South Africa (148) and the Philippines (76).”  Sadly, more recent figures don’t seem to be available.

Considering the extensive coastline of the island, the increasing numbers of wealthy residents, both Manx born and from the UK, and the relative economic boom which has seen increased non-EU immigrants take up roles in the service and healthcare industries, the conditions seem ripe for trafficking and exploitation to at least have featured on the radar of the Island’s authorities.  Further, the increased consumption of illegal drugs, pretty much all of which are imported, points to the presence of some level of organised criminal activity.  For example, a survey in 2008 found that half of the Island’s prison population were detained for drug offences.  The main source of these drugs was Merseyside in England, with 95% of all drugs coming from this source.  My friend and I recounted rumours that the Island had functioned as a transit point for IRA weapons during the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland, pointing to its strategic location and potential stopping point in the transportation of illegal goods.  While we are not suggesting that the Isle of Man is full of hardened criminal “syndicates” that are expanding their criminal empires from guns, to drugs, to people in reflection of the increased wealth of the island, we are highlighting the fact that the conditions noted above point to the potential for the movement of people onto the island for the purposes of exploitation. (more…)