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Regulation of labour markets key to eradicate forced labour

Modern slavery: “Regulation of labour markets key to eradicate forced labour” – UN rights experts

GENEVA (23 May 2014) – A group of United Nations independent experts on slavery, migrants and trafficking today called on world Governments to adopt a legally binding international protocol to respond to today’s challenge of forced labour worldwide.

Forced labour generates 150 billion USD in illegal profits per year, which is about three times more than previously estimated, according to new figures released this week by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in its report ‘Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour.’

“A legally binding protocol is essential to fight forced labour and represents a crucial opportunity for more coherent international action to advance the eradication of slavery-like practices around the world,” the human rights experts stressed. “Setting adequate international standards will enable to hold accountable all those who fail to exercise due diligence to prevent exploitation of the most vulnerable in society.”

The human rights experts called on ILO members to take appropriate action at the upcoming International Labour Conference due to start on 28 May, and encouraged them to vote for a legally binding protocol supported by a guiding recommendation to States.

“There are over 20 million people today who are victims of forced labour. These are women, men and children who are economically and sexually exploited,” the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, said. “Slavery like practices like forced labour continues to exist today because they are profitable.”

“Many of the victims of forced labour are migrants who leave their country of origin due to pull-factors that are largely in response to unrecognized needs in the labour markets in countries of destination,” noted the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crepeau.

The human rights expert stressed that “migrants are often willing to do the ‘dirty, difficult and dangerous’ jobs that nationals will not, at the exploitative wages that unscrupulous employers will offer, including in the construction, agriculture, hospitality and care-giving sectors.”

“Trafficking for labour exploitation also constitutes a very large and ever increasing share of the trafficking business,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in persons, Joy Ezeilo.

“ILO’s support for a legally binding protocol would be a stepping stone in addressing the Demand and Supply which fuels the grave human rights violations inflicted to those trafficked for forced labour across different sectors of the economy,” she stated.

Against this background, the UN human rights experts also noted the current standard-setting discussion by ILO to supplement the Forced Labour Convention (No. 29), 1930 to address implementation gaps in the areas of prevention, protection and compensation measures.

“There is an urgent need for comprehensive approaches that take into account the labour market dimension to curb forced labour,” they emphasized.


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