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Read The AIRE Centre's submission on the UK's positive obligations to investigate allegations of slavery, servitude and forced labour

30 September 2013

These submissions, made jointly by the AIRE Centre and Kalayaan, are made in response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ call for evidence on the UK’s positive obligations to investigate allegations of slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, following the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in C.N. v the United Kingdom (Application No. 4239/08) in which the AIRE Centre was a third party intervener.

These submissions focus on the continuing problems faced by victims of slavery and servitude, similar to the Applicant in C.N., and the need for the UK government to do more to facilitate access to authorities in light of the Court’s comments in this judgment, and to ensure the UK is complying with the full scope of its positive obligations under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Victims who fall foul of the prohibitions contained in Article 4 are subjected to many different forms of exploitation and in various business, occupational or private settings; all are entitled to the same level of protection under that Article. However, where there are now some procedures in place in the UK for victims of trafficking to be protected, in compliance with the positive obligations under Article 4 ECHR (and following the introduction of the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings, the EU Directive 2011/36 and the ECtHR’s ruling in Rantsev v Cyprus and Russia (Application no. 25965/04)), there are no corresponding procedures in place for victims of slavery, servitude or forced labour where there is no trafficking element.

These individuals are often brought legitimately to the UK under the Overseas Domestic Worker visa and then exploited in private households. The situation faced by domestic workers has become worse following changes to the visa in April 2012, as a consequence of which domestic workers have been left without the limited protections they previously had. The AIRE Centre and Kalayaan are strongly of the view that the significant gap in protection for domestic workers in the UK (set out in detail below) should be urgently reviewed by the UK government in light of the Court’s judgment in C.N. v the United Kingdom.

These submissions are divided into two parts. The first part highlights to current situation of individuals who have been brought to the UK under the overseas domestic worker visa (under Rule 159 of the Immigration Rules) and who are subsequently forced into domestic servitude and, in extreme cases, into situations amounting to slavery. The second part of these submissions highlight the scope of the UK’s positive obligations under Article 4 ECHR and the further steps that the Government should take in response to this judgment in relation to protecting victims and potential victims of slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour. 

Read the full submission 

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