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Hardline immigration policies will be the top driver of human rights risks in 2017: Report

Hardening immigration policy in the U.S. will increase the risk of modern slavery and labor abuses against undocumented workers, creating human rights risks for businesses in 2017, warns a new report from global risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft.

Undocumented migrant workers may become more vulnerable to human rights abuses as tougher U.S. immigration policies may push them under the radar, warns the Human Rights Outlook 2017 report.

There are around 8 million undocumented migrant workers in the U.S., according to the report. Stricter deportation policies may push them further underground, while a Mexico border wall may cause human traffickers to increase their fees.

A man from Mexico crosses the wall border between Mexico and Unites States at the beach of Tijuana, Mexico.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
A man from Mexico crosses the wall border between Mexico and Unites States at the beach of Tijuana, Mexico.

"Undocumented migrants in the U.S. labour force could worsen the risk of modern slavery across key states", Aygun Kazimova, principal analyst of analytics at Verisk Maplecroft, said in the report.

"Over half of the undocumented migrant workers in Florida and California work in agriculture, manufacturing, hospitality, construction and transport. These sectors will therefore be hard hit by measures that put migrant workers at risk of abuse."

Partly alleviating the problem this year in other parts of the world will be the increasing amount of legislation requiring firms to perform mandatory human rights due diligence checks on their supply chain.

Such legislation has passed in France and the Netherlands, and is expected to pass in Switzerland, according to the report.

"Mandatory disclosure makes it more likely that consumers, shareholders and investors will vote with their wallets for ethical companies who can prove their respect for human rights," says Dr Alexandra Channer, principal human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said in a press release.

However, the report also claims of "blind spots" in human rights risk assessments; areas of the supply chain which due diligence checks may miss.

Truck drivers, warehouse staff and ship workers may be at risk.

"Seafarers' wages and working conditions are often the first to suffer when ship owners or shipping companies compete at ever lower prices to transport ever fewer goods," warned Channer in the report.

"Seafarers also lack state protection if owners register a ship under a 'flag of convenience' to avoid higher costs and stricter labour regulations in their own country."

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