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Introduction

In March 2023, the 52nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) took place.

During this session, the UK Government formally responded to the recommendations made by UNHRC member and observer states during its fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 10 November 2022 (for background on the UPR and our work to date, check out this blog).

The UK Government picks up the issues we raised

As we discussed in our previous blog, our report was informed by people with direct experience of the violation of their economic, social, and cultural rights, including those subject to the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition.

The UK Government has accepted recommendations on several issues that we included in our advocacy around the UPR, including:

  • access to adequate housing without discrimination – in our report we recommended that people subject to NRPF be able to access housing assistance.
  • ensure adequate health care for all migrants – in our report we highlighted that the NRPF condition impacted the right to health, and also that protection of the right to health had been lost through the direction our government took in terms of our exit from the EU.
  • fulfilling our international human rights obligations – this was an issue we highlighted across our report – on issues including the future of the Human Rights Act, our path since we exited the EU, and realisation of our economic, social, and cultural rights.
  • ensuring the European Convention on Human Rights is fully implemented and given effect in UK law – this was a key issue we raised, including in a specific briefing to member States of the UNHRC.

Interesting points to note

In the formal response there were some things worth noting:

  • While the UK is supposed to identify the recommendations they ‘support’ and ‘note’ others (i.e. the ones they don’t support) it appears the UK Government may have created a new category not recognised in the official documentation on the process – ‘partially support’.  This is potentially concerning because it is not in keeping with the existing process.
  • In addition, the UK Government is required to provide a comment in relation to its decision on each outcome. This has not been done for each recommendation, which is a new departure for this cycle of the UPR, and again potentially concerning in terms of abiding by the process and transparency.
  • In addition, when comments are given, some of them are highly questionable. For example, Mexico made the following recommendation “Ensure that any amendments to the legal framework maintain the same level of protection as the current Human Rights Act of 1998.” The UK Government responded that it supported this recommendation and commented that it does not accept the premise that the Bill of Rights weakens human rights protections. This is in direct contradiction to the evidence provided by many civil society organisations (including Just Fair) and the expert opinion of seven United Nations special rapporteurs who highlighted concern that the proposed Bill of Rights Bill would, “undermine the enjoyment of human rights in the United Kingdom.”[1]

What next?

We will be contacting the UK Government to ask them about their plans for implementing all recommendations made to them during the UPR, including how they are planning to consult with civil society to achieve this.

We’ve already started mainstreamed the recommendations in our own work,  – most recently in our response to the call for evidence by the Human Rights (Joint Committee) on the Illegal Migration Bill.

We will  continue holding the UK Government to account through other international review process, including the current review by the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

[1] See the full letter from 17 August 2022 here.

Background image by Zdravolina