Human Rights

Modern slavery and the media: What we don’t know can hurt us

This piece was originally published by René Cassin. Who has read about John Lewis and Habitat’s decision to stop selling a range of granite worktops over worries that slaves played a part in making them? When the news broke early this month, only The Guardian and The Metro gave it airtime. An imbalance is hardening in the British media. What the public knows about modern slavery relates overwhelmingly to the prosecution and conviction of criminals. But that’s only a fraction of the story – and, when it comes to slavery, what we don’t know really can hurt us. The more mugshots fill front pages, the harder it is to see the bigger picture. For newspapers chasing headlines, supply chains and victim protection rarely fit the bill. At the centre of Britain’s problem with slavery, though, are the hidden tentacles of networks that reach well beyond our borders. Modern slavery is as much about the businesses and …

Dexter Dias: ‘Justice is collective therapy’

This piece was originally published by The Justice Gap.   Dexter Dias is never more than a few sentences away from a thought experiment. This is one of them: You’re watching a game between two players, Maria and Denise. They can’t see you, but you can see them. You enjoy the competition as they try to outwit each other, some rounds going Maria’s way, others won by Denise. Then, something changes. Out of Denise’s sight, Maria hits a button. The game becomes skewed, and Maria starts to win every round. You watch for a while, as the cheat prospers, and then you’re told you can leave. On the way out, you’re given £10 for your time. You’re then asked if you want to give £2 back to even the game up. Chances are, so the experiments tell us, you’ll hand over the money. ‘That tells us something very important,’ argues Dias. …

Freedom – or Freefall?

This piece was originally published as a blog post by René Cassin.   Imagine that everything is taken away from you. Forget your job. Forget your income, too. You have no home and no family you know how to contact. Imagine that you have 45 days to rebuild. And the clock is ticking. For former slaves, this isn’t merely a thought experiment. Last year, over 3,800 people went through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for victims of modern slavery. The government offered each of them just over six weeks of support in a safe house before cutting them loose. This is the cruel reality of the UK’s current modern slavery strategy. During those 45 days of what the government calls ‘reflection and recovery’, a victim’s first task is to prove that they are indeed a victim of slavery or human trafficking. If they can’t or don’t, the clock ticks faster: they have …