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7 Okt 2021

UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Italy: UN experts call on govt. to end exploitation of migrant workers & hold business to account for human rights abuses

"Italy: Government must break cycle of exploitation of workers, hold businesses accountable – UN experts", 6 October 2021

UN human rights experts today called on the Italian government and Italian businesses to take decisive action to end exploitation of foreign migrant workers and address their precarious legal status.

At the end of a 10-day official visit to Italy, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights highlighted serious and persistent human rights abuses relating to business activities in Italy. These include inhumane work and living conditions for thousands of migrant workers, serious occupational health and safety concerns, and environmental pollution that endangers public health.

“Migrant workers, including from African and Asian countries, working in sectors such as agriculture, garment and logistics, are trapped in a cycle of exploitation, debt bondage and human rights abuses that must be broken,” said Surya Deva, Chairperson of the Working Group. “This requires decisive action by the Government and business to provide decent work conditions for all workers.”

The Working Group welcomed efforts by the Government to dismantle the illegal gang-master system known as “caporalato,” but said “many workers living in inhumane conditions see no positive change in their lives.”

Government authorities, businesses, and trade unions should work together to improve conditions and ensure that no one, including producers and retailers, benefits from cheap, exploited labour.

The Working Group welcomed steps by the Government to strengthen Italy’s legal and policy framework in the area of business and human rights, but said there remains a need to better implement laws and impose sanctions sufficient to deter abuses by businesses...

“As a highly developed economy in the European Union, Italy should establish a strong, independent national human rights institution without further delay with an explicit mandate to deal with business-related human rights abuses. It should also enact a mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence law,” Deva said.

The Working Group visited Italy from 27 September to 6 October to examine efforts of the Government and businesses to implement their human rights obligations and responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights both in Italy and in relation to the activities and supply chains of Italian business abroad. It visited Rome and the regions of Lazio, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Lombardia and Toscana. It also considered the impact of COVID-19 on promoting responsible business conduct practices...

The Working Group will present a full report of its findings and recommendations concerning this visit to the Human Rights Council in June 2022.