New study investigates modern slavery during COVID-19 pandemic to develop best practice guidance

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Researchers from Keele University are leading a new study to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on human rights issues, to identify best practice for protecting workers and victims of modern slavery. 

Led by Professor Tomoya Obokata and co-authored by Dr Forough Ramezankhah from Keele’s School of Law, in partnership with Minority Rights Group International, the research will create a set of guiding principles on actions against modern slavery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Ramezankhah commented on the research: “Workers and victims of modern slavery are being maltreated more than ever in such challenging times and this is a critical contribution to highlight shortcomings and good practices globally.

It is a privilege to be part of this significant and timely project.”

According to the researchers, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for workers and for people affected by modern slavery.

A large number of workers have lost their jobs during the pandemic, which might push them into looking for opportunities in informal economies, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

The pandemic might also make it more difficult for people caught up in modern slavery to come forward.

The research team plans to share their findings in spring 2021 with relevant governmental, civil society, inter-governmental and private stakeholders.

Professor Obokata, who is also a Special Rapporteur for the United Nations on contemporary forms of slavery, added: “I am excited to carry out this research together with our partner Minority Rights Group International as there are a number of knowledge gaps which need to be filled in order to identify best practice in protecting workers and victims of modern slavery.”

The research is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council-supported Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre.