Human Rights

  • Freedom United community powers open letter urging U.K. to ban child marriage
    Campaigners and charities in the U.K. have signed an open letter urging the government to criminalize child marriage and remove a legal exception that allows 16 and 17-year olds to marry with parental consent, allowing the “thriving” issue of forced child marriage to persist. More than 20 organizations signed the letter to Prime Minister Boris…
  • U.K. rule change leaves survivors at increased risk of detention and deportation
    An upcoming change in U.K. immigration law is set to increase the number of survivors of modern slavery detained and forcibly removed. Freedom United and other campaigners and activists are urgently calling on the U.K. to review this decision and stop detaining trafficking survivors. The rule change, which was recently approved by Parliament and is…
  • COVID-19 exposes exploitation risks for migrant workers in Portugal
    As migrant agricultural workers in Portugal find themselves having to self-isolate as a result of a wave of COVID-19 infections in the sector, attention has turned to their poor living conditions and wider systemic exploitation in the sector. From having passports confiscated to being coerced into unpaid labor, the work conditions of migrant fruit and…
  • A New York state university asked to cut ties with prison slavery
    Like many other U.S. states, New York requires government agencies to treat Corcraft, a state-owned prison company, as a “preferred source” for products. Corcraft produces a range of institutional products, from office furniture to soap dispensers using incarcerated labor. Among other state entities, schools such as City University of New York (CUNY), are required to…
  • Young Uyghurs lead online mobilization against forced labor in China
    Young Ugyhurs living overseas, reporting on the detention and forced labor of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim groups in China, risk exposing their family members who remain in the country to surveillance and punishment by the Chinese government. Reuters reports, Unwinding for the evening in her Washington, D.C. flat, Uyghur activist Jewher Ilham often has…
  • U.S. massage workers see police as biggest threat to their safety
    The Guardian reports that, in the United States, many massage workers are more afraid of police and law enforcement raids than client robbery or assault or employer abuse. Why are they so wary of the police? Their livelihoods may be threatened, they may be arrested, they may be deported, they may be coerced into performing…
  • Filipina worker kept in modern slavery conditions in Australia
    Australian husband and wife, Joshua and Sheila McAleer, from Sydney have pled guilty to charges of forcing someone to work for them from November 2014 to October 2016. In 2014, the couple paid a three-month tourist visa for a woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons,  to travel from the Philippines to Australia. Despite…
  • Australia’s Uyghur community pushes government to take action on Uyghur Region
    A new bill to ban imports from the Uyghur Region on grounds of forced labor has received the support of representatives of Australia’s Uyghur community. The bill, tabled by independent senator Rex Patrick, would amend the country’s Customs Act to ban the importation of all goods from the Uyghur Region, as well as other goods…
  • Survivor stories: from a Uganda shelter
    Trigger warning: this story includes references to sexual abuse. Survivors of trafficking and sexual abuse at a German-run girls’ shelter in Uganda shared their stories this week in a photo essay by the Guardian. Bery’s Place, located on Bugala Island in Lake Victoria, was founded by German national Bernhard “Bery” Glaser in 2006, ostensibly as…
  • U.K. ignores survivors, campaigners, MPs with destructive policy
    This week, the U.K. parliament voted to push forward with legislation that will see more trafficking survivors locked up for longer in immigration detention – in direct contravention with international standards and recommendations from the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons. Freedom United supporters wrote to their MPs, urgently asking them to add their…
  • U.S. private prison operator loses financiers thanks to public pressure
    CoreCivic, the second largest private corrections company in the U.S. has lost two of three underwriters for its $633.5 million bond deal for two new men’s correctional facilities in Alabama. Barclays PLC was the lead underwriter – amid much controversy. In 2019, Barclays said it would not provide financing to private prison companies. But it…
  • New U.K. policy will put trafficking survivors at increased risk of suicide
    The U.K. Royal College of Psychiatrists (RSP) have released a report this week calling on U.K. MPs not to detain trafficking and torture survivors on the basis of their extreme vulnerability to the risk of depression and suicide. According to RSP president, Dr. Adrian James, these groups need access to mental health services that are…
  • Charities urge against planned deportation of U.K. homeless migrants
    Homelessness charities and advocates are urging the U.K. government not to enforce new rules that would allow the deportation of homeless migrants, greatly increasing their risk of exploitation and modern slavery. The Home Office, the interior ministry, has amended immigration rules such that homeless people who are not U.K. citizens face losing their right to…
  • Human Rights Watch urges action against “unprecedented” oppression in Uyghur Region
    Governments must take coordinated, direct action against oppression and forced labor in the Uyghur Region of China, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged in a new report. Co-authored by Stanford Law School’s Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, the 53-page report accuses the Chinese government of committing crimes against humanity through its oppression of Uyghurs…
  • Lower house of U.K. parliament to vote on declaring Uyghur oppression a genocide
    The House of Commons, the lower house and primary chamber of the U.K.’s parliament, is set to vote next week on a motion to declare the Chinese government’s actions in the Uyghur Region—which include systematic forced labor—a genocide. Collective decisions on genocide are uncommon but not unheard of in the U.K. parliament, which in 2016…
  • How the pandemic makes it easier for traffickers in Europe
    A new report by Council of Europe (CoE) anti-trafficking experts known as GRETA finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it easier for human traffickers to exploit people with few options while making it more difficult for trafficking victims and survivors to access justice and support. The Thomson Reuters Foundation reports, GRETA’s annual report noted…
  • Lebanon’s financial crisis worsens exploitation of domestic workers
    Al Jazeera reports that Lebanon’s current financial crisis heightens the insecurity of domestic workers, particularly migrant domestic workers, as they are being paid a fraction of their time’s worth – if at all. All migrant workers are subject to the kafala system which binds employees to their employers and leaves them vulnerable to exploitative situations…
  • Why Nordic Model policy pushed in the U.K. won’t tackle sex trafficking
    This week, Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Diana Johnson sought support from her party for amendments to the U.K.’s controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would criminalize sex workers’ clients, otherwise known as the Nordic Model. Some proponents of the Nordic Model, including Diana Johnson who tabled a bill in December calling for…
  • The continued horror of “marry-your-rapist” laws around the world
    A new report from the United Nations has revealed that laws allowing rapists to evade prosecution by marrying their victims persist around the world. According to the findings from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), so-called “marry-your-rapist” laws still exist in Russia, Thailand, Venezuela and 17 other countries. In these countries, men can legally have rape…
  • International Olympics Committee uniforms made with Uyghur forced labor
    Axios reports this week that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has given a uniform contract for the Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympics and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics to a company implicated in forced labor. The Hengyuanxiang (HYX) Group, which was contracted by the IOC to supply formal uniforms, has a subsidiary factory in the Uyghur…
  • U.S. law enforcement: when “rescue” becomes exploitation
    The criminalization of sex work in the U.S., barring the state of Nevada, further complicates and undermines efforts to tackle sex trafficking, the Washington Post reports. Like many countries, in the U.S., there is a dangerous conflation of sex work and sex trafficking due to the criminalization and stigmatization of sex work. U.S. law enforcement…
  • Lebanon’s vaccine rollout risks excluding migrants and refugees
    Migrants and refugees in Lebanon, including many survivors of modern slavery, are at risk of being left behind by the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plans, according to Human Rights Watch. The organization interviewed numerous refugees, migrant workers, UN staff, and aid workers as part of an investigation that has uncovered wide disparities in the country’s vaccine…
  • Pandemic leads to fall in reports to U.K. modern slavery helpline
    The United Kingdom’s national anti-slavery helpline received fewer reports in 2020 than in 2019, a drop that experts have warned hides a troubling reality. In its annual report released Wednesday, the anti-trafficking charity Unseen—which operates the helpline—said that while overall cases only fell by 4 percent, potential victims dropped by around a quarter. This disparity…
  • Legislator calls for an end to prison slavery in Louisiana
    “I just don’t believe that Louisiana and the United States should be in the business of legalized slavery.” – Curtis Ray Davis II, executive director of Decarcerate Louisiana and formerly incarcerated person Louisiana lawmaker Rep. Edmond Jordan this week called for action to end prison slavery by introducing House Bill 196 which seeks to remove language…
  • U.S. escalates action against Top Glove with total rubber glove import ban
    The U.S. has banned the import of all rubber gloves from the world’s largest manufacturer, Top Glove, as a result of forced and indentured labor in its factories, the Guardian reported on Tuesday. The decision comes at the close of a months-long investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which found “conclusive evidence” that…
  • Investors push fashion brands to hold ground amid China backlash
    Western fashion brands are under pressure from an alliance of more than 50 investors and funds to take action on forced labor in the Uyghur Region, according to a Reuters exclusive. The group, which is backed by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), said it was contacting dozens of companies demanding supply chain transparency…
  • Lawyers call out U.K.’s unsubstantiated claims about false modern slavery survivors
    The U.K.’s interior ministry, the Home Office, recently published a press release entitled “Alarming rise of abuse within modern slavery system.” The press release announced new measures to address this supposed abuse by the likes of “child rapists, people who pose a threat to our national security, serious criminals and failed asylum seekers” without providing…
  • “I am a feminist, I am teacher, and I am a survivor advocate of human trafficking”
    Writing for Global Citizen, Freedom United board member Sophie Otiende shares why centering lived experience in the anti-modern slavery movement is crucial to identifying sustainable solutions and achieving meaningful justice. Sophie Otiende works with Liberty Shared to offer a victim case management system and in her new role on the board of directors at the…
  • Trafficking victims’ pursuit of justice delayed in Bangladesh
    Research released this week has found human trafficking cases in Bangladesh are being prevented from progressing through the justice system due to a lack of evidence from foreign authorities and insufficient financial support for survivors. Delays in receiving justice as well as “inadequate witness protection mechanisms”, and in some cases, not being able to afford…
  • Attitudes towards massage parlors are putting workers in danger
    In the wake of the racist attack that targeted massage parlors in Atlanta last week, advocates for massage workers, sex workers and others including Freedom United are concerned that targeted police raids on these establishments that are said to “curb sex trafficking” will instead put workers in greater danger. While it is unclear if any…