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25 Feb 2021

Patricia Carrier, Thomson Reuters Foundation News

Commentary: UK Modern Slavery Act inadequate to address UK business complicity in forced labour of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, China

Governemnt site

“Stronger legislation is needed to tackle modern slavery in global supply chains of British businesses”, 25 February 2021

Last month, Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced a series of measures designed to ensure British companies are not complicit in, nor profiting from, human and labour rights abuse of the Uyghur in China, up to and including fines for companies that fail to report under the UK Modern Slavery Act (the MSA).

While this may sound strong, the reality behind the headlines is a flimsy paper exercise … This is because the MSA has failed in its central purpose to effectively tackle forced labour in supply chains.

… [T]he provisions of the MSA require a trifling level of reporting, not monitored or enforced …

Despite six years of persistent non-compliance by two in five companies, not a single injunction or administrative penalty (such as exclusion from lucrative public procurement contracts) has been applied to a company for failing to report. Any expectation it would be an effective tool to address the egregious human rights abuses faced by a million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and others around the world forced into modern slavery, would be sorely mistaken.

It’s clear the UK has fallen behind other countries when it comes to compelling companies to take action to tackle forced labour…

Import bans, based on trade laws, are one way to address the use of forced labour in the production of goods and they can drive results … However, they do not require companies to prevent those human rights abuses from occurring in the first place or provide access to remedy for victims or hold companies liable for these harms…