European Court of Human Rights rules Bangladeshi migrants were subjected to forced labour and human trafficking and did not receive effective protection from Greece

Thursday 30 March 2017

In a highly significant judgment handed down today, the European Court of Human Rights held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 4 (prohibition of forced labour) of the European Convention on Human Rights in a case concerning 42 Bangladeshi nationals who did not have work permits and were subjected to forced labour.

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Kathryn Cronin and Shu Shin Luh of Garden Court Chambers represented one of the interveners, Anti-Slavery International, instructed by Zubier Yazdani of Deighton Pierce Glynn.

The question for the court was whether someone with freedom of movement could be said to be trafficked and/or subjected to forced labour. The court also importantly went on to consider the scope and ambit of Article 4 stating that protection measures include identification of victims and provisions for their recovery.

The employers of the Bangladeshi nationals had recruited them to pick strawberries on a farm in Manolada (Greece) but failed to pay the applicants’ wages and obliged them to work in difficult physical conditions under the supervision of armed guards.

The Court found, firstly, that the applicants’ situation was one of human trafficking and forced labour, and specified that exploitation through labour was one aspect of trafficking in human beings.

The Court then held that the Greek state had failed in its obligations to prevent the situation of human trafficking, to protect the victims, to conduct an effective investigation into the offences committed and to punish those responsible for the trafficking.

Further details of the judgment (Chowdury and Others v Greece) can be found in the ECtHR press release, which includes a link to the judgment (only available in French).

The Law Faculty of Lund University (Sweden), the International Trade-Union Confederation, the AIRE Centre (Advice for Individual Rights in Europe) and the PICUM (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants) were also interveners alongside Anti-Slavery International.

Kathryn Cronin and Shu Shin Luh are members of the Garden Court Chambers Public Law and International teams.

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