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United Kingdom Nationality and Borders Bill undermines rights of victims of trafficking and modern slavery, UN experts say

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UN HRC
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GENEVA (14 January 2022) ̶ UN human rights experts* expressed serious concern over the United Kingdom's Nationality and Borders Bill, which they said breaches the country's obligations under international law.

“If adopted, it would seriously undermine the protection of the human rights of trafficked persons, including children, increase risks of exploitation faced by all migrants and asylum seekers, and lead to serious human rights violations.

"The bill fails to acknowledge the Government’s obligation to ensure protection for migrant and asylum seeking children, and greatly increases risks of statelessness, in violation of international law," said Siobhán Mullally, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children.

The experts said the bill fails to respect the UK’s obligations under international human rights and refugee law, dismantling a core human rights protection of democratic societies and pushing vulnerable people into dangerous situations.

The right to seek and to enjoy asylum is a fundamental human right. If passed, the Bill could penalise asylum-seekers and refugees, violating the principle of non-punishment in international law and discriminating between categories of asylum seekers, contrary to international law.

The experts also highlighted the specific risks faced by migrant and refugee women. Under this Bill, women that have experienced gender-based violence can be turned away from the UK rather than be allowed to seek and find safety.

"The Government’s repeated public statements on combating trafficking and modern slavery must be matched by concrete action to ensure equal protection of the law for all victims of trafficking and modern slavery, without discrimination," the experts said.

“We are alarmed that the bill will increase the possibility of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship ̶ which has a troubled history rooted in racism and discrimination ̶ and increase the risk of statelessness," the experts said. "The bill instrumentalises national security concerns, increasing risks of discrimination and of serious human rights violations, in particular against minorities, migrants and refugees. We urge the Government to reverse these proposed measures.”

In November, the experts sent a letter to the UK Government, outlining a range of concerns about the bill. The full text of the letter is published here.

ENDS

  • The experts: Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons; Felipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences . Endorsed by Reem Alsalem, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact Clara Pascual de Vargas (clara.pascualdevargas@un.org) or

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact: Jeremy Laurence (+ 41 79 444 7578 / jeremy.laurence@un.org) or Renato Rosario De Souza (renato.rosariodesouza@un.org)