The UN is set to review the U.K.’s human rights record in its universal periodic review (UPR) this week, which is anticipated to result in strong recommendations regarding the U.K’s rollback of support and rights for modern slavery survivors.
Steady rollback of rights and support
Since it’s last review in 2017, the U.K. has steadily eroded rights for survivors, erroneously reclassified modern slavery as an immigration issue, and passed the Nationality and Borders Act despite concerns raised by the UN human rights chief regarding the potential of this legislation to seriously impinge on the human rights of migrants and survivors.
At the time of its last review, the U.K. had recently passed the Modern Slavery Act and had positioned itself in a self-styled role as a world leader against modern slavery.
Still a world leader?
Today, the U.K. can no longer claim this title as the government seeks to intentionally undermine the rights of trafficking survivors in the pursuit of restrictive and punitive immigration policies, questioning the validity of victims’ claims.
Furthermore, the U.K. Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s post remains vacant, sparking concerns that the Home Office is intentionally failing to find a replacement to avoid scrutiny on key pieces of modern slavery legislation.
Since the last universal periodic review, UN special rapporteurs have raised concerns related to the trafficking and modern slavery landscape in the UK, including in relation to the overseas domestic worker visa – with people in such roles particularly vulnerable to trafficking and abuse – and during the course of the nationality and borders bill legislative process. They said the latter breached the UK’s obligations under international law and “would seriously undermine the protection of the human rights of trafficked persons”.
Jasmine O’Connor, CEO at Anti-Slavery International, said “the government must be reminded of its duty to prevent modern slavery and protect those experiencing it.”
Right now, the U.K. is categorically failing to meet international standards to protect modern slavery survivors and ensure their rights are protected. We are urgently calling on the U.K. to heed recommendations made by the UPR and take action to stand up for survivors.