Human Rights Commission Welcomes Draft Modern Slavery Strategy
The Human Rights Commission has today published its advice on the Department of Justice draft Northern Ireland Modern Slavery Strategy. The Commission welcomes the strategy, and has made a number of recommendations on how the Strategy could more robustly tackle modern slavery in Northern Ireland.
Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby, said:
“Modern slavery continues to have a huge impact on the lives of individuals throughout Northern Ireland. Thirty-six potential victims of human trafficking were rescued by police last year, demonstrating that this is a real issue for Northern Ireland. The numbers rescued are inevitably the tip of the iceberg.
“Businesses, government and public bodies must take their supply chain issues seriously and be vigilant to stamp out exploitation. The Strategy is important yet there is much still to be done, and we look forward to the publication and implementation of the Strategy in Northern Ireland.”
In its advice, the Commission recommended embedding a human rights-based approach in the Strategy and the development of a longer-term action plan with concrete and measurable outcomes. The Commission also recommended that the Strategy recognises the unique vulnerabilities of women victims of modern slavery, and advised that the Department of Justice works with the Department of Health to address the health of victims of sexual exploitation.
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Notes to Editors:
1. Figures released today in the UK Modern Slavery Annual Report 2018 indicate that there has been a significant rise in the number of recorded offences across the UK, with 36 potential victims of trafficking rescued by police in Northern Ireland during 2017/18.
2. The Department of Justice launched a public consultation on its draft Northern Ireland Modern Slavery Strategy 2018-19 on 26 July 2018. The deadline for submitting comments was 18 October 2018.
3. Read the Commission’s full submission here.
4. Summary of the Commission’s recommendations:
i) The Commission recommends that a human rights-based approach is embedded in the Strategy. To achieve this, the Department should commit to taking action consistent with international human rights standards, particularly those protecting the principles of non-refoulement and extraterritoriality.
ii) The Commission advises that, in order to ensure the timely and effective implementation of its annual strategies, going forward the Department of Justice should seek to conclude consultations on its draft strategies in advance of their start date for implementation.
iii) The Commission advises that a longer-term strategy is developed as an over-arching tool to inform the annual strategies, which contains concrete and measurable outcomes to be monitored and evaluated across a more substantial time period. This will enable work to continue uninterrupted, and help to inform decisions when drafting annual strategies.
iv) The Commission recommends that the Strategy take into consideration the impact of Brexit on modern slavery, and include measures to navigate: the potential loss of the European Arrest Warrant and Joint Investigation Teams, and cross-border cooperation more generally; and the vulnerability of those individuals uncertain of settled status, who may be at increased risk of exploitation in the context of Brexit.
v) The Commission recommends that the Strategy detail how Health and Social Care Trusts will safeguard and protect the interests of children who have gone missing whilst in the care of the Trust and who are at risk of being trafficked.
vi) The Commission recommends that the Strategy should recognise the unique vulnerabilities of women victims of modern slavery, and include a commitment to develop an action plan with the Department of Health to address the health of victims of sexual exploitation.
vii)The Commission advises that the Department of Justice considers partnering with the Commission to deliver human rights training for staff working under the Strategy.
viii) The Commission recommends that the Department addresses the funding needs of Freedom Acts and other support organisations to ensure the sustainability of the identified mechanisms for delivery so that they can continue to operate.
ix) The Commission recommends that the Strategy commit to raising awareness among businesses to ensure their fulfilment of obligations under international human rights standards and the Modern Slavery Act, and to become a member of the Northern Ireland Business and Human Rights Forum.
18 Oct 2018