Nexus between displacement and contemporary forms of slavery - Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, Tomoya Obokata (A/HRC/48/52) [EN/AR/RU/ZH]


Human Rights Council
Forty-eighth session
13 September–1 October 2021
Agenda item 3
Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights,
including the right to development


The present report is submitted in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 42/10, in which the Council decided to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences.

In the report, the Special Rapporteur identifies factors that render displaced persons, including internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and refugees, vulnerable to exploitation and contemporary forms of slavery. He also outlines some of the principal manifestations of slavery as experienced by displaced persons globally, and highlights good practices and persisting challenges in preventing and responding to contemporary forms of slavery affecting displaced persons.

The Special Rapporteur formulates recommendations for States, businesses, civil society, members of academia and humanitarian actors with the objective of providing constructive guidance on how to address the present situation.

I. Introduction

1. This year, 2021, marks the seventieth anniversary of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the sixtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the twenty-third anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, considers it timely to assess the situation of displaced persons, including refugees, stateless persons and internally displaced persons, with regard to contemporary forms of slavery. Also, in its resolution 73/327, the General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. The present report thus contains a section on the worst forms of child labour as experienced by displaced children.

2. At the end of 2020, there were 82.4 million forcibly displaced people worldwide – approximately 1 per cent of the world’s population. Of these, 26.4 million were refugees, 48 million were internally displaced persons, and 4.1 million were asylum seekers. An estimated 35 million (42 per cent) of the displaced are children below 18 years of age. Furthermore, there are 4.2 million stateless persons; unofficial statistics indicate that as many as one in three stateless persons have been displaced. The Rohingya from Myanmar constitute the largest stateless community in the world, being displaced mostly in Bangladesh and Malaysia, as well as in India and other countries. Today, most displacement situations are protracted, with the refugees being displaced for, on average, between 10 and 26 years.

3. Displaced persons may be subjected to contemporary forms of slavery prior to displacement, in transit and in places of destination. They may be exposed to slavery or slavery-like practices in humanitarian and non-humanitarian situations, including in camps and non-camp settings. Vulnerabilities manifest in different ways depending on the context. Contemporary forms of slavery may constitute both a cause and a consequence of displacement.

4. To inform his research, the Special Rapporteur issued a call for input from a wide range of stakeholders, including Member States, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, United Nations entities and regional human rights bodies. He wishes to thank all the stakeholders who responded to his call for submissions and welcomes the engagement demonstrated in this process.8 The Special Rapporteur also drew on information gathered from desk research. Examples mentioned in the report are demonstrative and are not intended as a comprehensive representation.