Save displaced people from slavery by granting right to work, urges UN expert


Governments could boost their own economies and save more than 80 million people from the threat of modern slavery if they granted the world’s forcibly displaced people the right to work, a UN expert told the Human Rights Council today. 

“Almost one percent of the world’s population, some 82.4 million people, have been forced to flee war, violence, conflict or persecution, and find safety either abroad or within their own countries,” said Tomoya Obokata, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, as he presented a report on the link between displacement and contemporary forms of slavery.  

“These refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people are especially vulnerable to contemporary forms of slavery because they often face poverty, discrimination, unemployment, job insecurity and limited access to basic services in their new communities,” he said. Displaced children and stateless people face even greater risks, he added. 

If they are not allowed to work, displaced people may be dependent on humanitarian and development assistance, but also can be pushed into forced or bonded labour if they feel they have no alternative, Obokata said. 

“It is in the interest of host communities and States to include displaced people in the labour market,” he said. “If they are able to support themselves, they can also contribute to the local economy. 

“Some States have made progress in ensuring that displaced persons have opportunities to support themselves, but more needs to be done to break the vicious cycle between displacement and contemporary forms of slavery,” Obokata said. 

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