Talking Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in the Context of Migration Negotiations

Dr Kasey McCall-Smith, Chair of the Association of Human Rights Institutes and member of the Global Justice Academy, discusses Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in the context of the UN Global Compact for Migration.

In a previous post, I gave general overview of the UN Global Compact for Migration and a brief analysis of the Migration Compact thematic discussions on the distinctions between human smuggling and human trafficking. This note considers modern slavery, a topic with which the University of Edinburgh is highly engaged through both academic projects as well as its Modern Slavery initiatives. Following on from the distinction between migrants smuggled into a state for the sole purpose of evading legal migration and individuals trafficked into (or within) a state for purposes of exploitation, the following will present key debates about modern slavery and human trafficking that are highly relevant to the conclusion of a comprehensive Migration Compact.

Anne Gallagher (Doughty St Chambers), an expert on migration and human trafficking, introduced the subject for the assembly echoing the common NGO mantra that current approaches to migration undermine public support for regular legal migration. Many government policies and hyperbolic rhetoric focused on the criminalisation of irregular migrants (often referred to as ‘crimmigration’) ignore the reality that most migration takes place through legal channels and evidence demonstrates that this has been a great contribution to the economic development of states throughout history. Though trafficking does contribute to irregular migration, the underlying purposes breach international law and the rights of individuals who are trafficked into modern slavery. While much progress on addressing irregular migration that contributes to modern slavery has been made in the past decade, states are failing to seriously implement migration reception practices that are sensitive to the victims of this criminal activity.

There is no single definition of modern slavery in international law. Slavery in its traditional sense is prohibited under treaty and customary international law, but the nuances of contemporary practices are highly varied. One thing is certain; victims of trafficking never consent to the intended ends of exploitation, whether these ends are labour exploitation, sexual exploitation or any other form of exploitation or servitude. Poor labour practices where pay is withheld, passports are confiscated or freedom of movement is otherwise restricted amounts to modern slavery and these situations are often linked to highly stringent migrant worker policies. From the perspective of Migration Compact negotiations, the catch is that smuggled irregular migrants and trafficked persons often travel the same routes and many states are unwilling to develop programmes that enhance the identification of trafficked individuals. Furthermore, the power imbalance between the smugglers/traffickers and the migrants/victims are always out of kilter on the side of the former so identification is messy at best even if solely focusing on victimhood. The nature of those facilitating trafficking is also very blurred and generally focused on men and crime syndicates when there is substantial evidence indicating that family members and older children also contribute to the global trafficking epidemic.

A clear divide exists in approaches to tackling trafficking and modern slavery. Many of the origin states and some NGOs of the global south view trafficking as a strictly supply and demand binary, pleading that if destination states enhanced the punishment for end users then the demand would dry up and their nationals would not be trafficked. Very conservative, non-western states argue that no such activity exists in their highly virtuous societies and, again, foist the blame on capitalist economies. Western states point to the internal conflicts or failing economies that are common across the states of origin. The reality is that they are all wrong and they are all right. No state is untouched by the issue of trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable people and every state can take steps to protect future generations from the horrors that hundreds of thousands of people have suffered. It is estimated that from 2012-2014, over 63,000 trafficking victims across 106 states were reported (see the session’s Thematic Brief) though other reports put the number markedly higher. It is notoriously difficult to identify trafficking victims as it is often a coin toss between the greater evil, the trafficker or the state’s mishandling of a victim. This contributes to the lack of comprehensive information about the dynamics of trafficking victims’ journeys. If the Global Compact negotiations are successful, there is hope that the number of trafficking victims and modern slavery will be closer to zero in a future near you.

#UNMigration #HumanTrafficking #humansmuggling #humanrights #internationallaw #UNnegotiations #ModernSlavery #TraffickingVictims

Follow the Global Justice Academy on Twitter: @GlobalJusticeEd

More about the author: Dr McCall-Smith is a lecturer in Public International Law and programme director for the LLM in Human Rights at the Edinburgh Law School.

Smuggling or Trafficking? Defining the Terms in the UN Migration Compact

Dr Kasey McCall-Smith, Chair of the Association of Human Rights Institutes and member of the Global Justice Academy, discusses recent steps towards a UN Global Compact for Migration. This is the first of two blogs from Dr McCall-Smith on the Migration Compact negotiations.

The next steps toward a UN Global Compact for Migration to combat the ever-growing legal and policy issues associated with mass and irregular migration were taken at the UN headquarters in Vienna, Austria, 4-5 September 2017. The Compact aims to deliver a comprehensive approach to human mobility as well as further clarification of and support for existing international frameworks addressing migration, refugees and trafficking, including the Refugee Convention and its Protocol, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (Trafficking in Persons Protocol) and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (Smuggling of Migrants Protocol), as well as a number of human rights instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), among many others.

The agenda for the Thematic Session on Smuggling and Trafficking of Migrants promised a challenging two days working through how to identify, support and facilitate legal migration for the most vulnerable and outlined many controversial issues. All of these issues are overshadowed by the need to balance global efforts to regulate migration and protect human dignity against state sovereignty arguments focused on controlling borders. As an international instrument, before the document is agreed, states will spend much effort articulating terms in order to clarify what obligations may, or may not, emerge in the final form. The distinction between human smuggling and human trafficking, two terms that are often conflated in the media and general discourse, emerged as the first controversial terminology discussion. Recalling the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, Louise Arbour, the UN Special Rapporteur on International Migration, clarified that while smuggling of migrants to facilitate irregular migration is a crime against a State, trafficking in persons is a crime against a person. This, sadly, is a point that has been often overlooked by States in the pursuit of stringent domestic migration policies that focus on excluding irregular migrants no matter what their migration journey. It is intended that the Migration Compact will recognise the nuances of the realities faced by people forced into irregular migration journeys and address these in the countries of origin, transit and destination.

The first panel on smuggling of migrants, comprised of Gabriella Sanchez (Migration Policy Centre, EUI), Mark Shaw (Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime) and Jorgen Carling (Peace Research Institute) delivered concrete, critical insights into the absolute necessity to understand the difference between the terms smuggling and trafficking and reiterated that trafficking victims must be distinguished from economic migrants when transit and destination states are processing irregular migrants. Many interventions prevailed upon States to recognise that heavy-handed counter-irregular migration policies often lead to an increase in trafficking and have extremely negative impacts on women and children that have been trafficked for the various ends of modern slavery. Hassiba Hadj Sabraoui (Médecins Sans Frontières) and Bandana Pattanaik (Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women) cautioned the assembly that the terms human trafficking and human smuggling were not in need of such distinctions if you approach the issue from the victim’s viewpoint. All migrants are prone to vulnerability. It is documented by NGOs that individuals beginning their migration journeys as smuggled irregular migrants often find themselves trafficked as smugglers respond to increased restrictions and policing on traditional migration routes.

Ensuing interventions by states made clear that the distinction was inconsequential for those governments that have experienced a mass exodus in population or that are widely known for their harsh policies toward all irregular migrants. States with increasingly harsh migration policies continued to harp on the need for stronger implementation of criminal laws at the international, regional and domestic levels, ignoring all evidence and statements offered to the contrary. Addressing irregular migration cannot be solely about criminal justice responses and increasing barriers to legal migration. Comprehensive migration solutions must take a human rights based approach to dealing with the root causes of irregular and mass migration and the treatment of victims. A very clear point raised through the proceedings was the pressing need for much more substantial empirical data on migrants, trafficking victims and those involved in the trafficking chain so that there is better understanding of all irregular migration journeys. In the end, states must adapt to the realities that the victims of the wide range of causes for irregular migration, whether smuggled or trafficked or both, are human beings and only a human rights based approach that preserves their dignity will deliver any true resolution to the problem of irregular and mass migration.

#UNMigration #HumanTrafficking #humansmuggling #humanrights #internationallaw #UNnegotiations

Follow the Global Justice Academy on Twitter: @GlobalJusticeEd

More about the author: Dr McCall-Smith is a lecturer in Public International Law and programme director for the LLM in Human Rights at the Edinburgh Law School.


The Asylum Monologues

This blog has been written by Dr Grit Wesser, a postdoctoral fellow in Social Anthropology at The University of Edinburgh. Here, she reports from a recent Asylum Monologues event in Edinburgh, which brought together performers, academics, students and the public to discuss this global human rights issue.

Immigration has perhaps always been – at least since the rise of nation-states – a contentious issue for policy makers, in public discourse, and around families’ kitchen tables. The so-called “European Refugee Crisis” has renewed a debate not on ‘whether’, but on ‘how much’ to control and limit immigration to Europe. In this process, the issue has been reduced to one of numbers.

But why do people cross borders and leave behind their home countries and loved ones? What does it mean to be an asylum seeker in Scotland? What new boundaries do migrants face, once they arrive in a country that is foreign to them – and treats them as foreigners? Could Scotland become their new home? These questions were being creatively examined through a performance of the Asylum Monologues, and in the panel discussion that followed.

Ice&Fire, a theatre company that explores human rights issues through performance, created the first script of the Asylum Monologues in 2006. Since then the company has recorded and performed various testimonies of asylum seekers, aimed at raising awareness of asylum seekers’ experiences by sharing their stories with the communities to which they now belong. The audience listened attentively to a Scottish script, launched only during Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival in 2016.

The three Ice&Fire performers took turns in telling the stories of a Kurdish unaccompanied minor, a young Pakistani man, and an Iranian woman and their experiences in Scotland. These narrations were candid and often bittersweet, taking the audience on the asylum seekers’ journeys, oscillating between the fear of state persecution and the sensations of loss, hope, and homesickness. The stories evoked the grief caused by broken families and the joys experienced through new-found friends as well as the frustrations and struggles associated with having to start from scratch and the potentials and expectations that new beginnings hold.

The performance was followed by a panel discussion, chaired by Jenny Munro from Beyond Borders Scotland. The panel comprised Professor Anthony Good, Social Anthropology; Phil Jones, manager of the Glasgow Night Shelter for Destitute Asylum Seekers; and Steven Ritchie, one of the three performers. The panellists were joined by two young men whose stories we had just heard: Tony and Aras.

Since Aras had listened to the script of his own story for the first time, he was eager to praise the performer: “It was great. You told it better than I could have!” Tony and Aras spoke to the audience about their new life in Scotland, while Phil explained how the Night Shelter’s work attempts to mitigate the difficulties faced by asylum seekers in Glasgow. Steven, who was also involved in interviewing asylum seekers, revealed more about the process of recording and retelling their life stories.

Issues surrounding the asylum process in the UK were clarified by Prof Good, who has frequently acted as an expert witness on asylum appeals in the UK and other countries. Contrary to the stories we had listened to, he elaborated, the Home Office structures its interviews with asylum seekers in a way that does not accommodate a chronological order of their experiences. Questions are often phrased ambiguously so that asylum seekers’ answers could vary, in turn leading to an intentional undermining of their credibility – a credibility required for gaining refugee status.

After a vote of thanks to the performers, panellists, and sponsors, the event ended with much applause and a donation appeal. The audience donated a total of nearly £200, which was equally split to support the work of Amnesty International and the Glasgow Night Shelter.

Aimed at making the people behind immigration numbers visible again, it was a successful evening – as one attendee later commented: “I’ve been to a few discussions on refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland, but this was the first to have a more creative take with the monologues, which I thought worked really well. It’s always helpful to have a more personal take, because numbers and places are difficult to bring to life.  I thought it was great all in so thanks for putting it together.”

Grit Wesser organised The Asylum Monologues event with Helene Frössling (Scottish Graduate School of Social Science) and Hannah Cook (Centre for African Studies), and in collaboration with Beyond Borders Scotland and Ice&Fire. The event was co-supported by the Global Justice and Global Development Academies’ through their joint Innovative Initiative Fund.

MBA Team Syria: Making a Difference to the Community

DSC00990As a part of the Strategic Leadership course on Edinburgh’s MBA programme, a group of five students organised a social event to help draw awareness to the Syrian refugee crisis. In this guest post, Debjani Paul offers an overview of the event, which centred around the the personal life experiences of three Syrians now settled in Edinburgh – Aamer Hanouf, Hussen Al Ajraf, and Amer Masri.

With the rising global concerns including climate change, an increase in global population, poverty, and terrorism, world leaders have much to focus on. It is becoming a new norm for companies to be socially responsible by promoting sustainability and contributing at least in one of the global concerns, also known as Corporate Social Responsibility. This is the ethical way to do business that every future leader should practice.

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Out of Serbia

This post was first published on the author’s Remotely Balkan blog, and is re-blogged here with permission.

This post is by Laura Wise. Laura is an Analyst on the Global Justice Academy’s Political Settlements Research Programme. Her research interests include minority mobilisation, state-society relations, and conflict management in South-Eastern Europe.

Röszke, Vasfüggönnyel a bevándorlók ellen. Képen: Szögesdrót a röszkei határátkelőnél. fotó: Segesvári Csaba

Röszke, Vasfüggönnyel a bevándorlók ellen.
Képen: Szögesdrót a röszkei határátkelőnél.
fotó: Segesvári Csaba

The Balkan Express is no more.

Replaced by luxury international coaches from Vienna to Sarajevo, with on-board toilets that work, Wi-Fi, and conductors who serve drinks, gone are the potholed, unreliable minibus journeys that make classic travellers’ tales for the Western backpacker. Last month I made a fleeting visit back to the Balkans; the kind of trip where you spend hours on the aforementioned buses just to meet friends for coffee. It was also a chance to reunite with rakia, and revisit bars where the pop-folk of Dado Polumenta is an acceptable choice of music. However, most of my conversations and experiences kept returning to a more sobering topic: Europe.

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What Can Scotland Do?

Rebecca Smyth is a Global Justice Academy Student Ambassador for 2015-16. In this post, Rebecca reflects on the third in our series of Rapid Response Roundtables on the current refugee crisis. Rebecca also report from the second roundtable, ‘Is the Global Refugee Regime Fit for Purpose?’.

Chaired by Dr Patrycja Stys of the Centre of African Studies, this event was the last of three organised by the Global Justice Academy in relation to the current refugee crisis.

It began with a screening of LIVED’s Learning to Swim, a short documentary that aims to share something of the everyday lives of displaced young Syrians in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, the village of Zaatari, and Amman in Jordan. It’s a very special piece. Through seemingly disjointed snippets of interviews and footage, it gives a sense of the inner lives and daily routines of children and young people caught up in the Syrian conflict. We meet a girl who loves football, kites and fried food, and whose favourite place is Homs, a place of roses and affectionate people.

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Is the International Refugee Regime Fit for Purpose?

Rebecca Smyth is a Global Justice Academy Student Ambassador for 2015-16. In this post, Rebecca reflects on the second in our series of Rapid Response Roundtables on the current refugee crisis. Rebecca will also report from the final roundtable, ‘What Can Scotland Do?’.

This panel discussion was a follow-on event from the first panel discussion held at the beginning of October on the roots of the current Syrian crisis. The panel was comprised of Professor Christina Boswell and Dr Lucy Lowe from the School of Social and Political Science; campaigner Amal Azzudin of the Mental Health Foundation; and Jamie Kerr, Partner at Thorntons Solicitors specialising in Immigration Law. It was chaired by Dr Mathias Thaler.

“The international refugee regime is spectacularly not fit for purpose”

Drawing upon her academic research and own experience working with the UNHCR in the mid-1990s, Professor Boswell demonstrated the ways in which the origins of the current global refugee regime have combined with EU policy to create an unsustainable system for dealing with the current refugee crisis.

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The Refugee Crisis: Where to Begin?

In the wake of the recent attacks in Paris and Beirut, anti-refugee rhetoric has continued to grow in the British press and on social media. In this post, GJA Managment Group member, Dr Kasey McCall-Smith, reflects on her recent visit to a refugee camp in Serbia. Dr McCall-Smith is a Lecturer in Public International Law at Edinburgh, and Programme Convenor for the GJA’s LLM in Human Rights.

Many weeks ago, I had the privilege to visit a refugee camp in Belgrade, Serbia. The experience was double-edged because it was harrowing to speak to and move in and among individuals who were fleeing from horrors that I could never personally imagine. At the same time, there was courage among these people who were travelling thousands of miles, away from their homeland, towards an idea. That idea is something that is often hard to define but what I will simply refer to as hope.

In the Syrian man, who had been on the site for two weeks with his twin one-year old daughters and his wife, there was hope for a landing place where he could raise his daughters without fear.

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Refugee Crisis Response Event I: The Roots of the Syria Crisis

As a contemporary and prominent topic, a panel event discussing the roots of the Syria crisis was always going to be well attended. In front of a packed lecture theatre, on October 6th 2015, Dr. Thomas Pierret, Dr. Manhal Alnasser, and Arek Dakessian presented their points of view on the causes and changing shapes of the crisis in Syria since the popular uprising in 2011, chaired by Dr Sarah Jane Cooper Knock. Each speaker brought their experiences as academics, practitioners and personal stories to the event.

Internal issues, not proxy war

Thomas began the discussion by raising the two prominent explanations for conflict in Syria: the first, which he subscribes to, that it was a domestic problem which became internationalised; and the second, that it was a proxy war from the outset. He argued that the conflict started with the popular uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian regime, in which the power lies in family patronage networks rather than institutions. The immediately repressive state response, sectarian-social divides between police and protestors, and subsequent defections, all led to the formation of a crowdfunded armed movement against Assad, which was a well-established force before international actors became involved. Finally, he claimed that the regime is now compensating for its lack of manpower with increased firepower, and that this has led to mass displacement through the total destruction of rebel-held areas, especially cities.

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