UK Nationality and Borders Bill undermines rights of victims of trafficking and modern slavery, says UN experts

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GENEVA, Switzerland – 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.

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