Regressive policies on labour and migration exacerbate forced labour and exploitation, international rights group says


A significant new protocol on forced labour was agreed last year, which promised to strengthen national laws and actions on protection of workers’ rights. However, many regressive policies related to migration and labour persist, according to the latest issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review, published by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW).

The new issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review examines how the global community is addressing forced labour and trafficking. The journal questions whether recent efforts have done enough to stop exploitation at work.

“In 2014, governments across the globe committed to combat forced labour through a new international agreement, the International Labour Organization Forced Labour Protocol,” says Bandana Pattanaik, GAATW’s International Coordinator, “There has been some progress in national policies and union activities, but in general governments have prioritised stemming migration over protection of workers’ rights.”

The International Labour Organization estimates that there are almost 21 million people in the world today from whom forced labour is exacted. Authors of the journal analyse responses to this form of exploitation, including unions championing the protection of migrants’ labour rights, and governments enacting supply chain disclosure laws (for example in Brazil and the United States of America).

Many of the journal issue’s authors describe how regressive policies, such as the surprisingly widespread Kafala system of ‘tied’ visas for lower paid workers, are eroding these rights. This year, the United Kingdom affirmed a Kafala-type system for domestic workers. The new UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 retains the regressive visa system, which restricts domestic workers from changing employers or seeing redress when things go wrong.

Other authors look at forced labour and trafficking within the context of migration. Experts Hannah Lewis and Louise Waite for example stress that refugee and asylum-seeking situations are putting people in ‘hyper precarious’ situations and more at risk of exploitation. They argue that greater recognition of workers’ rights, particularly migrant workers, would reduce incidences of forced labour and human trafficking.

‘Protecting rights of workers and providing them with avenues to demand a fair wage and decent working conditions, holding employers accountable, and advocating for systemic changes may help us address a range of exploitations including trafficking and forced labour,' said Pattanaik.

Notes to editors:

• Interviews are available with:

  • Rebecca Napier-Moore, Editor, Anti-Trafficking Review
  • Nicole Piper, Guest Editor, Anti-Trafficking Review
  • Marie Segrave, Guest Editor, Anti-Trafficking Review
  • Bandana Pattanaik, International Coordinator, GAATW

• The journal includes case studies from Brazil, Italy, India, Malaysia Thailand, USA, UK. If you are interested in interviewing any of the authors of these particular case studies please let us know.

• To arrange interviews or for an embargoed copy of the journal, please contact:

Jasmin Qureshi, Associate Editor, Anti-Trafficking Review, Bangkok, Thailand

Tel: +66 (0) 94056 7281 / Email:

• The journal will be freely available at on 29 September 2015.

• There will also be a launch event (include panel discussion and reception) for the journal on 29 September 2015 at 6pm in Bangkok, Thailand. If you would like to attend this event, please email Jasmin Qureshi for more information on

• GAATW launched its peer-reviewed journal, the Anti-Trafficking Review, in 2012 to promote quality and critical research into trafficking, and 'anti-trafficking'. The open-access journal explores the issue of trafficking in a broader context including gender analyses and intersections with women's rights, labour rights and migrant rights. It offers a space for dialogue, debate, critique and discussion of best practice for academics and practitioners seeking to communicate new ideas and findings.

• The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW) is a non-profit organisation that works to protect and uphold the human rights of migrating and trafficked women around the world. Representing a global network of more than 120 non-governmental organisations, we focus on the issues of migration, labour and human trafficking, with a special emphasis on women. Our activities involve research, communications and advocacy in order to hold governments accountable, increase access to justice for migrating and trafficked women and further the global debate on the issues ( / @GAATW_IS)