GDP Hosts Fourth Interactive Webinar: Protecting Victims of Trafficking from Immigration Detention

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    Global Detention Project

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On Tuesday 25 April, the GDP held the fourth in its series of interactive webinars designed to help grassroots activists learn how to harness the UN human rights system to challenge abusive and arbitrary detention practices in their countries.

During this webinar, which was moderated by Suzanne Hoff  (International Coordinator, La Strada International), we heard from four global experts on human trafficking about how the principle of non-punishment can be used to protect victims of trafficking who are detained for migration-related offences. The importance of this discussion was underscored by the GDP’s Michael Flynn in his opening remarks: “It is impossible to imagine the depths of despair that a victim of trafficking must feel when they are locked up without a criminal charge, afraid to even acknowledge their victimhood for fear of reprisals by their traffickers, forsaken in a country they do not know.But this is precisely what we need to try to imagine today. How we can we harness the power and rationale of the non-punishment principle to prevent harmful immigration detention? This is the key question that we seek to address.”

During the first half of the event, we heard from Siobhán Mullally (UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children) and Tiphanie Crittin (Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section, UNODC). Discussing the legal framework for the non-punishment principle, Siobhán Mullally highlighted her work arguing that immigration detention is incompatible with the non-punishment principle – “It goes against states’ obligations to assist and protect.” Discussing how we can practically give effect to the principle, she emphasised the importance of early identification as well as providing effective access to legal aid and civil society for immigration detainees, “to ensure that they are identified, referred to assistance, and not punished.” Tiphanie Crittin followed, providing an overview of the UNODC’s anti-trafficking work as well as intergovernmental and normative developments, including in the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons.

Part two heard from Ambassador Yuyun Wahyuningrum (Chair and Representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)) and Catherine Meredith (Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers (UK)), who offered regional and national perspectives. Providing an overview of the application of the non-punishment principle in the ASEAN region, Ambassador Wahyuningrum  gave examples of how countries have incorporated it into their national legislation, and examined some of the challenges in applying it. In particular, she highlighted the lack of understanding of the non-punishment principle, the fact that victims are seen as perpetrators instead of victims, and the need for further guidance on this issue. The webinar was concluded by Catherine Meredith, who provided participants with an in-depth discussion of the way in which the non-punishment principle applies in the UK and how lawyers have protected victims of trafficking from immigration detention (to-date), as well as the implications of the proposed “Illegal Migration Bill” and its removal of protections from trafficking victims who enter the UK “illegally.”

Many thanks to everyone who attended – and special thanks to our speakers and moderator for sharing their expertise and insights.

PDFs of individual presentations are available below: 

Michael Flynn, Global Detention Project“Opening Remarks”

Tiphanie Crittin, UNODC“An Overview of the UNODC’s Anti-Trafficking Programme and an Introduction to the Working Group on Trafficking in Persons”

Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Representative of Indonesia to the AICHR“A Regional Perspective: the non-punishment principle in ASEAN countries and the role of the AICHR in protecting the rights of trafficked persons”

Catherine Meredith“A National Perspective: UK Law and Practice and the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’