Is Britain Fairer?’ – not for some, new report reveals

Posted on Friday, October 30th, 2015

In the most comprehensive review ever carried out on progress towards greater equality and human rights protection in Britain, The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) today reveals ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ over the past five years.

Jewish human rights charity René Cassin, which campaigns on issues that resonate with Jewish historical experience – such as discrimination, asylum and slavery and trafficking – notes that some of the country’s most disadvantaged groups find themselves amongst the ‘losers’.

Britain’s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities suffer:

  • the lowest educational attainment (p22)
  • lower life expectancy than the general population (p52)
  • bad health (p52)
  • problems accessing healthcare services (pp54-5)
  • poor housing (p44)
  • bias and hostility – with half of Britons having ‘an unfavourable view’ of these communities (p93)

The report is also concerned that these communities could be further marginalised by the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration (p94).

On the issue of the detention of asylum-seekers, the report notes:

  • that ‘the lack of an immigration detention time limit in the UK, in contrast to other European Union countries’ is amongst a number of ‘serious challenges’ to the UK’s human rights record (p67)
  • that regulators have expressed concern about ‘the routine handcuffing of detainees in immigration detention without an assessment of their risk, including during hospital treatment; and inconsistent provision of written justification for its use’ (p82)

On modern slavery and human trafficking, the EHRC reports:

  • ‘a growth in reported trafficking from 1,171 people in 2012 to 2,295 in 2014.’ (p35)
  • that ‘British children represented nearly 11% of all reported victims of trafficking of young people and children’ (p35)
  • that ‘areas of concern and gaps in human rights protection for victims of trafficking and forced labour remained’. These include:
    • missed opportunities to prosecute all those involved in human trafficking
    • a lack of defence from prosecution for victims vulnerable to slavery
    • an Anti-Slavery Commissioner role that requires further strengthening
    • trafficked overseas domestic workers only being able to change employers where they can prove they have been a victim of slavery or trafficking (pp35-6)

Commenting on the EHRC report, Mia Hasenson-Gross, director of René Cassin, said:

The report highlights that some of the UK’s most disadvantaged and marginalised people and communities continue to suffer discrimination and inequality. Whilst that injustice continues, René Cassin will continue to press for change. We will also campaign to protect what the EHRC calls the ‘infrastructure of laws and enforcement mechanisms’ that exist to defend the principle of fairness in the UK. Foremost amongst these is the Human Rights Act, which the government wants to repeal, a move that poses a significant threat to human rights protection in the UK.

For further information or comment, contact Sam Grant, René Cassin’s Campaigns Manager, via sam.grant@renecassin.org  or 020 7443 5131 or 07514 239264