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MRG welcomes Special Rapporteur Tomoya Obokata’s first report on Covid-19 and slavery

16 September 2020

Human Rights Council – 45th Session
Geneva, Wednesday 16th September 2020

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery – item 3

Thank you Mister Vice-President,

Mister Special Rapporteur,

At the outset, Minority Rights Group (MRG) would like to warmly congratulate you on your recent appointment. This appointment comes at a time of particular challenges for persons affected by slavery, including in the context of the current pandemic, as highlighted in your report.

We welcome in particular your intention to focus on minorities and indigenous peoples among the groups that are especially vulnerable to be exposed to contemporary forms of slavery.

We also welcome your recent strong stance on the urgency to eradicate descent-based slavery, that remains a reality in Mauritania, but also in Mali, Niger and in other countries.

Mister Special Rapporteur,

We echo your concern that in a number of countries, including for instance Pakistan and India, minority groups working in informal poorly paid employment in street and sewer cleaning have been forced to work without basic personal protective equipment such as masks or gloves.

We also want to highlight the dire situation of migrant workers in the current context. In Lebanon, for instance, despite the free Covid-19 medical services supposedly available to all, many African and Asian domestic workers – the majority of whom are women – have been denied access to healthcare centres in the absence of documentation – a common issue for migrants who are forced to flee abusive employers. Many migrant workers fear they will be detained or deported if they seek medical care, not only because of their residency status but on the basis that they may be suspected of carrying the virus.

To conclude, Mister Special Rapporteur, the challenges are many to eradicate descent-based slavery and other contemporary forms of slavery. We and our local partners look forward to collaborating with you in a collective effort to fight this multi-faceted scourge.

I thank you.