Forced labour

Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to forced labour, especially those who are undocumented. Forced labour refers to situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means such as accumulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities.  Human trafficking can also be regarded as forced labour.   Forced labour is different from sub-standard or exploitative working conditions.  Various indicators can be used to ascertain when a situation amounts to forced labour, such as restrictions on workers’ freedom of movement, withholding of wages or identity documents, physical or sexual violence, threats and intimidation or fraudulent debt from which workers cannot escape.  Forced labour can result from internal or cross-border movement which renders some workers particularly vulnerable to deceptive recruitment and coercive labour practices.  The ILO estimates that almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour at any point in time.  Twenty-nine percent of the victims ended up in forced labour after having moved across international borders, the majority of those being forced sex workers.

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Two recent publications of the ILO are good sources of information about forced labour:
Strengthening action to end forced labour (2013)
Summary of the ILO 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labour (2012)

The following video explains the significance of the newly adopted Forced Labour Protocol

Recent posts in this section

    Documents from the Committee on Migrant Workers' General Discussion marking the 25th Anniversary of CMW



    Last 8 September 2015, the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (the Committee) organized a half-day general discussion to mark the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.  The general discussion was a public meeting in which representatives of States, United Nations bodies and specialised agencies, civil society and other relevant organisations as well as individual experts are welcome to participate.

    The panel discussion focused on the multiple human rights abuses faced by migrant workers, and challenges for States on how to best address these issues in the context of migrant workers in the Gulf, undocumented children in the Americas, and irregular migration flows in the Mediterranean. Each of these discussions underlined the importance of an agreed international human rights framework, including stepping up ratifications of the Convention. This discussion also included perspectives, including best practices, by States parties and non-States parties on how to address migration-related issues and the role of the Convention in this regard.

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    Invitation for Panel Event: Protecting the Liberty of Migrant Children & Families

    Visions from the Inside

    When: September 30, 2015 6:00pm – 8:00pm

    Where: 2nd Floor, 777 UN Plaza, at First Avenue and E. 44th St. New York

    Every day, all around the world, migrant children and their families are detained simply because they lack the proper documents. These children and families often undertake perilous journeys and are met with xenophobia, violence and—increasingly—with detention despite having committed no crime and without being a threat to others.

    There is now overwhelmingly clear guidance from the United Nations system that the immigration detention of children is a violation of rights to liberty and family life. Non-custodial, community-based alternatives to detention (ATD) are increasingly being implemented in a variety of country contexts. These ATD fulfill the best interests of the child and allow children to remain with their family members and/or guardians, respecting the fundamental right to liberty, while their immigration status is being resolved.

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    Lured by a job, trapped in forced labor

    Published by the ILO, 11 February 2014

    In search of a job to support his family, a man accepts an offer from a recruiter and signs a contract for what looks like a good job with decent wages. Once at destination, the reality is very different.

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