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Finland

Executive Summary

The Republic of Finland is a constitutional republic with a directly elected president and a unicameral parliament (Eduskunta). The prime minister heads a five-party coalition government approved by parliament and appointed by the president in 2019. The parliamentary election in 2019 and the presidential election in 2018 were considered free and fair.

The national police maintain internal security. Both Finnish Customs and the Border Guard have law enforcement responsibilities related to their fields of responsibility. The Border Guard has additional law enforcement powers to maintain public order when it operates in joint patrols and under police command. The Defense Forces are responsible for safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity and providing military training. The Defense Forces also have some domestic security responsibilities, such as assisting the national police in maintaining law and order in crises. The national police and Border Guard report to the Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for police oversight, law enforcement, and maintenance of order; the Ministry of Defense oversees the Defense Forces. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. There were no reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.

Significant issues included the existence of criminal libel laws.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse. In its most recent report on May 5 on prison and detention center conditions in the country, the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted insufficient lighting in remand cells in the Espoo, Haukipudas, Pasila, and Ylivieska police stations and poor states of repair in some cells in the Espoo, Kemijarvi, and Pasila police stations.

Reported incidences of inmate violence increased over the previous two years. Some cases of inmate prisoner violence remained unresolved due to a lack of human resources and out-of-date security equipment. A review of instances of prisoner violence by the public broadcaster Yle in July revealed long delays in preliminary investigation of prisoner violence, often resulting in insufficient evidence being available to investigators. Prisoners fearful for their own safety were held in conditions often approaching solitary confinement, the CPT stated.

The Finnish branch of Amnesty International highlighted that availability of COVID-19 vaccines in prisons and detention centers, and visitation rights were both limited during the pandemic. The World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Europe stated that as of July, the country’s vaccination rate among prisoners was 34.4 percent. Approximately 42 percent of the general population was fully vaccinated at the same time.

Administration: Authorities conducted investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers. On May 5, the CPT released the report on its most recent visit to the country in September 2020.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The law requires police to have a warrant issued by a prosecutor to make an arrest. Police must obtain a warrant within three days if an individual is arrested while committing a crime. Arrested persons must receive a court hearing within three days of arrest, and police must promptly inform detainees of the charges against them. Authorities respected most of these rights. Before trial most defendants awaiting trial are eligible for conditional release on personal recognizance. Detainees generally have access to a lawyer promptly after arrest. Persons detained for “minor” criminal offenses, however, do not have a right to an attorney from the outset of detention or prior to interrogation. The government must provide lawyers for the indigent. The May 5 CPT report noted that delays in notification of custody were “frequent and widespread” and could be delayed up to 96 hours, especially if the detainee was a foreigner. It reported that the placement of pretrial detainees in police custody instead of prison decreased since 2014 but remained a concern.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The constitution and law provide for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Authorities generally informed detainees promptly and in detail of the charges against them. Trials are public and take place without undue delay. Defendants have a right to a fair trial, to be present at their trial, and to consult an attorney of their choice in a timely manner before trial. The government provides attorneys at public expense if defendants cannot afford counsel. Authorities give defendants adequate time and facilities to prepare their defense. Defendants are provided free interpretation as necessary from the moment an individual is charged through all appeals. They may confront and question witnesses for the prosecution and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right of appeal.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies through domestic courts for human rights violations. After they exhaust all avenues of appeal in national courts, persons and organizations may appeal court decisions involving alleged violations of the European Convention on Human Rights to the European Court of Human Rights.

Property Seizure and Restitution

The government reports Finland did not confiscate property belonging to Jews during the Holocaust era, that Holocaust-era restitution has not been an issue, and that no litigation or restitution claims were pending before authorities regarding real or immovable property covered by the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues, which the government endorsed. While there were no known claims for movable Judaica or Jewish cultural property confiscated during the Holocaust era, journalists and representatives of the Finnish Jewish community stated they have no information as to the current whereabouts of movable property of the Central European Jews whom Finnish security services deported.

The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, released publicly in July 2020, can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution and law prohibit such actions. In September the Office of the Deputy Data Protection Ombudsman reprimanded the Police Board over the use of facial recognition software by the National Bureau for Investigation’s Child Sexual Exploitation Unit. The ombudsman’s report stated that the use of the facial recognition program Clearview AI did not comply with data security and data protection legislation. In response the National Bureau for Investigation said it would stop using the application.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Freedom of Expression: Public speech intended to incite discrimination against any national, racial, religious, or ethnic group is a crime. Hate speech is not a separate criminal offense but may constitute grounds for an aggravated sentence for other offenses. On October 4, a court convicted Finns Party member of parliament Sebastian Tynkkynen on the charge of ethnic agitation in connection with Facebook posts he made in 2017 as part of a municipal election campaign. In the posts Tynkkynen published several pictures and texts implying that Muslim asylum seekers and immigrants were criminals preying on women and children. The court sentenced Tynkkynen to fines totaling 4,410 euros ($5,070) and demanded he delete the posts from his Facebook account.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: The distribution of hate material intended to incite discrimination against any national, racial, religious, or ethnic group in print or broadcast media, books, or online newspapers or journals is a crime.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: On October 29, the deputy state prosecutor filed charges of disclosure of state secrets and attempted disclosure of state secrets against the daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat’s reporters Laura Halminen and Tuomo Pietilainen, and editor of the political news department Kalle Silfverberg for an in-depth report on an intelligence facility located in Central Finland which was published in 2017. If convicted, the employees face a minimum of four months and maximum of four years in prison. The pretrial investigation found that the newspaper did not illegally acquire the documents, but police launched a separate investigation into how Helsingin Sanomat obtained the classified information.

Libel/Slander Laws: Defamation and aggravated defamation laws carry a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and a monetary fine. The law has a section relating to breaches of the sanctity of religion (blasphemy) that includes publicly blaspheming against God and for the purpose of offending, publicly defaming, or desecrating what is held to be sacred by a church or religious community. Conviction carries a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment and a monetary fine.

Nongovernmental Impact: On October 1, a law came into force that facilitates the prosecution of illegal threats made against journalists and researchers without the victim’s first filing a complaint. The legislative change is meant to protect journalists and public officials from targeted harassment and to expand freedom of expression for members of the media.

Journalists who covered sensitive topics, including immigration, far-right organizations, Russia, and terrorism, reported harassment by private entities, including being targeted for defamation.

Journalist Jessikka Aro, who was the target of harassment for her reporting of Russian disinformation efforts, stated that she moved abroad for reasons of personal safety.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

In October 2020, during a demonstration in Helsinki, police used pepper spray on peaceful protesters of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion Finland. In June the special prosecutor stated that an investigation of the officers for breach of duty and assault was nearing completion. In October, after additional demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion Finland led to arrests and contradictory reports about the security threat posed by the demonstrators, the National Police Board announced it would launch a second investigation of the actions of the Helsinki police.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government continued to accept returned asylum seekers who had first entered in the country but then moved on to other European countries according to the Dublin III Regulation.

Exile: In July authorities confirmed the repatriation of a woman and her two children from the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria. From 2019 through July 2021, the government repatriated six women and 20 children from Syria who were displaced when ISIS collapsed. According to reports, at least four women and 11 children of those repatriated had left the al-Hol camp on their own without government assistance. A special envoy from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimated an additional five women and 10 children were in Syria, most of them in al-Hol. According to the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch, an estimated 22 Finnish nationals were in Syrian refugee camps as of May 26.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Parliament sets an annual quota for refugee admissions, and the government decides its allocation. Asylum seekers have the right to free legal representation throughout their application procedure. According to civil society organizations, asylum seekers continued to lack adequate access to legal assistance during the initial stages of the asylum application process and during subsequent appeals.

As of October 25, 43 persons arrived in during the year from the EU countries located on the Mediterranean. The arrivals were part of the 174 vulnerable asylum seekers from the region that the government agreed to accept in 2020. Under this agreement, from July 2020 through May 2021, 108 unaccompanied children and adolescent asylum seekers arrived from Greece, 14 unaccompanied minors arrived from Cyprus, and 47 single-parent family asylum seekers, mostly citizens of Afghanistan and Somalia, arrived from Malta, Cyprus, and Italy. An additional five persons from the region arrived between May and October. Between January and August, immigration services made 86 positive decisions granting asylum or refugee status, subsidiary protection, or a residence permit on other grounds to unaccompanied minors.

In March 2020 the nondiscrimination ombudsman published a study highlighting that the official justifications given for denying family reunification were severely restrictive in almost half of all reunification denials. The Finnish branch of Amnesty International highlighted in its annual report for the year that both process and outcomes of family reunification cases put children’s rights at risk, and legislative and practical obstacles, including high income requirements, continued to impede family reunification.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The government adheres to the EU’s Dublin III Regulation that establishes which EU member state is responsible for examining an asylum application.

Refoulement: On July 13, the European Court of Human Rights overturned its 2019 decision that the government violated the European Convention on Human Rights when it deported an Iraqi man to his country of origin, where he was allegedly killed three weeks later. The court based its initial ruling on forged documents, and the allegedly deceased man was later determined to still be alive. In February the Helsinki District Court sentenced the daughter and former son-in-law of the allegedly deceased man to prison sentences of less than two years for gross fraud and gross forgery.

The number of Russian-origin members of Jehovah’s Witnesses applying for asylum based on alleged religious persecution declined significantly. The Finnish Immigration Service rejected most of the claims by members of Jehovah’s Witnesses and did not consider membership in the church alone to be sufficient basis for an asylum claim. During the first half of the year, 15 asylum applications by members of Jehovah’s Witnesses were pending before the Supreme Administrative Court. Some applicants who were members of Jehovah’s Witnesses and whose appeals were denied subsequently returned to Russia. According to church representatives, two asylum-seeking families who identified as members of Jehovah’s Witnesses and faced deportation to Russia during the year received positive interim decisions by the UN Humans Rights Committee, thereby halting deportation proceedings.

Durable Solutions: According to the Finnish Immigration Service, the government planned to accept 1,050 quota refugees during the year. The government also assisted in the safe, voluntary return of migrants to their home countries.

Temporary Protection: From January to August, the government provided subsidiary protection to 102 individuals who did not qualify as refugees but who were deemed to qualify for subsidiary protection. During the same period, the government also offered humanitarian residence permits to 125 individuals based on “other grounds,” including medical and compassionate grounds.

g. Stateless Persons

According to UNHCR, 3,428 stateless persons resided in the country at the end of 2020. Involuntarily stateless persons and certain other special groups, such as refugees, have a shorter residency requirement – four years instead of six – than other persons before they are eligible to apply for citizenship. A child may obtain citizenship from either the mother or father regardless of the child’s place of birth and may also acquire citizenship if the child is born in the country and would otherwise be stateless.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: The country’s national parliamentary election in 2019 and the presidential election in 2018 were considered free and fair. After an inspection revealed that procedures at a drive-in polling station had deviated from guidelines to ensure election secrecy, the parliamentary ombudsman asked the city of Espoo for a statement on ensuring election secrecy in exceptional voting arrangements.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively. There were isolated reports of government corruption.

Corruption: The National Bureau of Investigation stated that the former director general of the National Audit Office, Tytti Yli-Viikari, and its former director, Mikko Koiranen, were suspected of aggravated abuse of office and breach of duty over salary payments to an agency employee without a duty to work and a possible illegal use of frequent flyer program flight points. Parliament fired Yli-Viikari; Koiranen was suspended from his duties.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

The parliamentary ombudsman enjoyed the government’s cooperation, operated without government or party interference, and had adequate resources. The parliamentary ombudsman investigates complaints that a public authority or official failed to observe the law, to fulfill a duty, or appropriately to implement fundamental human rights protections.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The Human Rights Center is an autonomous, independent institution administratively connected to the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The center’s functions include promoting the implementation of human rights, reporting on the implementation of human rights obligations, and cooperating with European and international bodies on human rights matters. The center does not have authority to investigate individual human rights abuses. A delegation of representatives from civil society who participated in promoting and safeguarding human rights frequently cooperated with the center.

The parliamentary Constitutional Law Committee analyzes proposed legislation for consistency with international human rights conventions. The committee deals with legislation relating to criminal and procedural law, the courts, and the prison system.

The law requires the ombudsman for children, the nondiscrimination ombudsman, and the ombudsman for equality impartially to advance the status and legal protection of their respective reference groups. These ombudsmen operate under the Ministry of Justice. Responsibility for investigating employment discrimination rests solely with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Responsibility for developing antidiscrimination policies and legislation as well as for the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations resides with the Ministry of Justice’s Unit for Democracy, Language Affairs, and Fundamental Rights. The Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations advocates for policy changes to improve integration.

The nondiscrimination ombudsman also operated as an independent government-oversight body that investigates discrimination complaints and promotes equal treatment within the government. The nondiscrimination ombudsman also acted as the national rapporteur on trafficking in human beings and supervised the government’s removal of foreign nationals from the country.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of both women and men, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. Rape is punishable by up to six years’ imprisonment. If the offender used violence, the offense is considered aggravated, and the penalty may be up to 10 years. All sexual offenses against adults, except sexual harassment, are subject to public prosecution. Sexual offenses against a defenseless person (such as because of unconsciousness, intoxication, or a disability) are considered as severe as rape.

Authorities may prosecute domestic abuse under various criminal laws, including as rape, assault and battery, harassment, and disturbing the peace. The penalty for physical domestic violence ranges from a minimum of six months to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The legal definition of rape emphasizes intentional violence, which civil society organizations alleged leads courts to find assailants not guilty in cases where coercion was less explicit. In addition police must inquire about a party’s willingness to participate in reconciliation, which is usually engaged in before the case proceeds to the prosecutor. Reconciliation may be grounds for the prosecutor not to press charges, but even reconciliation where a mutual agreement has been reached does not prevent the prosecutor from pressing charges.

Gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence, continued to be a problem. The Finnish branch of Amnesty International estimated that more than 100,000 persons experienced violence annually in the country and that 76 percent of the victims were women. According to Amnesty International, only 10 percent of these incidents were reported to authorities and most of those reported did not lead to prosecution. While police are obligated to investigate domestic violence cases, many of the cases are referred to a mediator after which police do not closely track the cases. According to the Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), 36.3 percent of intimate partner violence cases were directed to mediation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of intimate-partner violence reported to police increased by 6 percent, and utilization of the online services of the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters grew by 11 percent over the same period. A government-funded provider of telephone support services for victims of violence against women and domestic violence also reported a 31 percent increase in individuals seeking assistance in 2020. From January through July, 160 cases of rape were reported to police or border guards, a 24 percent increase over the same period in 2020. The ombudsman for equality at the Ministry of Justice highlighted problems with access to domestic violence shelters in remote rural areas.

The government funded shelters specifically for victims of domestic violence. There were 29 shelters for victims of domestic violence, and the number of places available in shelters throughout the country increased to 231 from 179 in 2018. The Finnish branch of Amnesty International stated that 550 places were needed to support the number of victims properly and that some rural areas had very few shelters and insufficient space in those shelters. The Human Rights Center acknowledged the problem. A survey of shelter services published by the THL during the year found a decrease in the number of shelter clients since 2019. The use of social welfare and health care services that refer clients decreased during COVID-19 lockdowns, which contributed to a decrease in the use of shelters. The THL estimated that the total required number of family places in shelters varied between 262 and 367. The ombudsman for equality at the Ministry of Justice highlighted problems with access to domestic violence shelters in remote rural areas. Funding of support services for survivors of violence were predominantly provided from the revenue of a state-owned company operating slot machines and gambling.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is treated as aggravated assault under the law and may be punished with imprisonment or deportation. Taking a girl living in the country abroad for FGM/C is also considered a crime. The government generally enforced the law. A school health survey released by the THL in June 2020, the most recent data available, found that 0.2 percent of girls attending high school or vocational school had undergone FGM/C and that at least 10 girls who answered the questionnaire were mutilated in Finland. The population that most reported having undergone FGM/C were Somali-born residents.

Sexual Harassment: The law defines sexual harassment as a specific, punishable offense with penalties ranging from fines to up to six months’ imprisonment. Employers who fail to protect employees from workplace harassment are subject to the same penalties. The prosecutor general is responsible for investigating sexual harassment complaints. The government generally enforced the law.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

In 2019 a group of parents, midwives, and doulas (nonmedical professionals who provide comfort and support to women during pregnancy and childbirth) organized a public campaign against alleged obstetric violence based on reports of episiotomies being performed during birth without informing or obtaining the consent of the mother and medical personnel pressuring pregnant women to consent to interventions and performing “violent internal examinations” on female patients.

The law requires that a transgender person present a medical certificate of infertility before the government may legally recognize their gender identity (see Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, below, for additional information.)

The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, and emergency contraception was available as part of the clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: The law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. The government enforced the law effectively. Pregnant women experienced difficulties in finding a job, returning from leave, and renewing fixed-term contracts. The equality ombudsman estimated that half of all calls relating to workplace discrimination concerned discrimination based on pregnancy or issues involving return from parental leave (see also section 7.d.).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law specifically prohibits discrimination based on origin and nationality.

The public broadcaster Yle reported in July that the Helsinki Police Department fired two officers, including the chief of staff, for engaging in racist communications with far-right hate groups. Text messages revealed discussion of an upcoming “civil war,” with language particularly targeting the country’s Muslim, Somali, and Romani populations. The report indicated that an additional five police officers and one guard with ties to far-right groups were under investigation.

In June the chief inspector of the ombudsman for equality confirmed that security officials, including police, were observed profiling and discriminating against individuals based on their ethnicity. The statement confirmed the key finding of a 2018 study that found police officers, security guards, border agents, and customs officers targeted minorities due to their ethnic background or skin color.

Roma continued to face discrimination in all social sectors and were often targeted by law enforcement and security officials. An investigation by Yle in May indicated that internal guidelines issued by the Helsinki Police Department to record the movements of the Finnish Romani populations meant that the police were collecting personal information and detaining Roma without legal grounds beginning in 2013. Police representatives stated they had stopped recording the movements of the Finnish Romani populations in 2017. According to the Fundamental Rights Barometer survey, 53 percent of Finnish respondents would be uncomfortable with a Romani neighbor. Housing discrimination acutely affected Romani populations, but instances of housing discrimination for Roma were likely underreported. Between January and June, the Office of the Equality Ombudsman received 753 reports of housing discrimination.

In June 2020, the latest year for which statistics from the National Crime Victim Survey were available, the nondiscrimination ombudsman reported that 80 percent of respondents with an African background experienced discrimination because of their skin color, 67 percent encountered discrimination or harassment in education, 60 percent encountered discrimination in the workplace, and 27 percent also experienced physical violence. More than one-half of the respondents said they had not reported the discrimination to authorities because they believed reporting harassment would not accomplish anything. According to statistics from the Fundamental Rights Barometer Survey, 36 percent of Arabic-speaking respondents and 31 percent of Russian-speaking respondents experienced discrimination during employment or while searching for a job.

According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, having an immigrant background disproportionally influenced educational results for students: 45 percent of immigrant students were in the bottom quarter of the PISA index of economic, social, and cultural status, compared with 24 percent of nonimmigrant students.

According to a university researcher, students were often placed in Finnish-as-a-second-language classes regardless of their Finnish proficiency if their native language on record was something other than Finnish or if they had a “non-Finnish” name.

The nondiscrimination ombudsman is responsible for responding to complaints of discrimination and regularly mediated between business owners, government agencies, and public service providers regrading treatment of customers and clients. The Ministry of Justice also responds to complaints of discrimination.

The government strongly encouraged tolerance and respect for minority groups, sought to address racial discrimination, and assisted victims.

In January Helsingin Sanomat reported that the banned Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) continued to operate out of public sight and without a clear name. In June prosecutors charged nine NRM members with engaging in illegal association for continuing NRM activities under the organization of the group Toward Freedom! (Kohti Vapautta! in Finnish) and leading a demonstration at Tampere Central Market in October 2020. The NGOs Save the Children and Hope Not Hate both reported that far-right youth groups such as the National Partisan Movement had used pandemic lockdowns to recruit minors online. The Finnish Intelligence Service highlighted that racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism in online platforms was a significant source of radicalization in the country. Leaders in both the Jewish and the Muslim minority communities stated that, while extremist websites were not a new phenomenon, the types of websites and forums targeting citizens expanded over the previous year.

In September the Ministry of Justice and the nondiscrimination ombudsman launched the “I am Antiracist” campaign to encourage individuals to act antiracist in their daily lives and consider the effects of racism more broadly in society. The campaign was part of the Ministry of Justice’s “Together for Equality” project, which received funding from the EU’s Fundamental Rights, Equality, and Citizenship Program.

Indigenous Peoples

The constitution provides for the protection of the Sami language and culture, and the government financially supported these efforts. The Sami, who constituted less than 0.1 percent of the population, have full political and civil rights as citizens as well as a measure of autonomy in their civil and administrative affairs. A 21-member Sami parliament (Samediggi), popularly elected by the Sami, is responsible for the group’s language, culture, and matters concerning their status as an indigenous people. It may adopt legally binding resolutions, propose initiatives, and provide policy guidance.

Reports issued by the Sami parliament in February and December 2020 found that the linguistic rights of the Sami were not realized in the way intended by the constitution and the Sami Language Law. Shortcomings involved the number of Sami language personnel, the accessibility of services, and the fact that, contrary to provisions of the Sami Language Law, Sami people must still separately invoke their linguistic rights for them to be recognized. Speakers of Inari Sami and Skolt Sami were in the most vulnerable positions, according to the report. The number of students in all Sami languages decreased by 3.5 percent to 710 pupils nationwide from 2020. In addition, as services were moved online and to centralized service telephone lines, authorities did not take into consideration the possibility of accessing these services in the Sami languages. Funds appropriated for Sami language social and health care have not been indexed to inflation since 2004, and there were fears that social and health-care reforms could further deplete services. There was also poor availability of Sami language prekindergarten personnel, and the funding of Sami language prekindergarten programs was inadequate.

The ombudsman for gender equality stated that Sami victims of domestic violence were at a disadvantage in accessing public shelters due to the long distances between population centers in the northern part of the country.

In May the Regional Council of Lapland agreed to rewrite its draft provincial plan for the period until 2040 to exclude the Arctic railway line from Helsinki to the northern border. Sami objected to plans for the railway, citing the railway’s potential impact on natural resources critical for their livelihoods, including reindeer-herding land and Arctic nature tourism.

Children

Birth Registration: A child generally acquires citizenship at birth through one or both parents. A child may also acquire citizenship at birth if the child is born in the country and meets certain other criteria, such as if the parents have refugee status in the country or if the child is not eligible for any other country’s citizenship. A local registration office records all births immediately.

Child Abuse: The law prohibits child abuse, defining children as individuals younger than 16. Child neglect and physical or psychological violence carry penalties of up to six months in prison and up to two years in prison, respectively. Sexual abuse of a child carries a minimum penalty of four months’ imprisonment and a maximum of six years. The law defines rape of a minor (younger than 18) as aggravated rape. Rape of a child carries a minimum penalty of two years’ and a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Aggravated rape of a child carries a minimum penalty of four years’ and a maximum of 12 years’ imprisonment. In October a man was sentenced to four months in prison for physically assaulting his six-year-old son during a summer vacation. The boy’s older brother was a witness to the assault. The man had two previous convictions for assaulting the mother of the child. The prison sentence was converted to 120 hours of community service.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage is 18; the law disallows marriage of individuals under that age. In the first half of the year, the National Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking reported 19 new cases of forced marriage. In 2020 the system assisted 45 women and girls, a slight decrease from 2019, considered to have been subjected to forced marriage. Many of these marriages occurred when the victim was underage.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The country prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography and the sale, offering, or procuring of children for commercial sex. The law prohibits purchase of sexual services from minors and covers “grooming” (enticement of a child), including in a virtual environment or through mobile telephone contacts. Authorities enforced the law effectively.

The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The law regards a person whose age cannot be determined, but who may reasonably be assumed to be younger than 18, as a child.

From January to June, there were 993 reported cases of child exploitation, compared with 838 cases reported during the same period in 2020. In June police passed to prosecutors a case involving a man suspected of multiple counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated child rape, and the possession and dissemination of indecent images of children. As of September all of the more than 30 victims identified were girls between the ages of eight and 14.

In June a man was sentenced to four years and six months in prison for aggravated child sexual abuse, rape, and attempted rape committed against two minors, ages seven and nine, in 2019 and 2020. The perpetrator’s self-reporting the crimes and cooperating with the prosecution reduced the sentence by six months.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

Government statistics and Jewish leaders place the size of the Jewish population between 1,500 and 2,500 individuals, most living in the Helsinki area.

Stickers and posters with anti-Semitic images and messages were placed on the synagogue of Helsinki’s Jewish congregation, in neighborhoods with significant Jewish populations, and on public property throughout the year. The vandalism ranged from targeted to apparently random, and similar incidents had occurred numerous times over the previous three years. Some of the anti-Semitic graffiti and stickers claimed to be from the banned NRM. Stickers specifically targeted Jewish community members at lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) pride events. Representatives of the Jewish community reported that, despite available video and photographic evidence of the perpetrators, police made no arrests in the incidents.

Debates on religious practices of animal slaughter with respect to kosher products and on nonmedical male circumcision often used direct or veiled anti-Semitic language (see Other Societal Violence or Discrimination, below).

The government provided funding for the security of the Helsinki synagogue, but the Central Council of Finnish Jewish Communities reported that funding had recently been cut in half. Representatives of the Jewish community reported feeling under threat and specifically targeted due to their beliefs.

On August 30, the Helsinki District Court ruled that the men who carried swastika flags in the 2018 Independence Day demonstrations of the Finnish neo-Nazi organization Toward Freedom! were not guilty of ethnic agitation. The court found that the defendants had not directly threatened or insulted a specific ethnic group.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

During the year a report on the results of the Fundamental Rights Barometer survey published by the Ministry of Justice found that 40 to 60 percent of persons with disabilities disagreed or strongly disagreed that public administration and local authorities adequately facilitated access to information depending on the specific issue, and 29 percent of persons with disabilities stated they had been treated disrespectfully by public administrations. The Ministry of Interior noted that only two police officers in the country were able to communicate in sign language and that access to services for persons with disabilities continued to be a problem. There were no existing comprehensive assessments of the state of accessibility of public buildings. An estimate from 2019, the most recent data available, suggested that 15 percent of residential buildings were accessible. Municipalities must organize reasonable transport services for persons with disabilities if they are needed to manage daily life functions. Municipalities reported problems in the availability and quality of transport services, particularly during major events, on-call times, and evenings and weekends. The constitution and law prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in all fields, including the provision of government services.

According to the Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (FAIDD), most children with disabilities were included in early childhood education in the same classes as other children. In primary schools there were fewer opportunities for children with disabilities to attend classes or participate in organized hobby groups with peers. According to statistics, 114 children with intellectual disabilities lived in institutional settings. The resources available varied across different municipalities. According to FAIDD, reforms to vocational education reduced the opportunities for young persons with disabilities to receive necessary professional training and find employment. The nondiscrimination ombudsman highlighted that inclusion in education was a complicated matter because, while some groups advocated for more inclusion, other advocacy groups noted that increased inclusion was not in the best interest of some persons in their community.

The law requires an authority, education provider, employer, or provider of goods to ensure equal opportunities for persons with disabilities to deal with the authorities, gain access to education, and work through reasonable accommodations. The parliamentary ombudsman’s annual report published in June saw an increase in complaints (from 281 in 2019 to 306 in 2020) regarding the rights of persons with disabilities. During the same period, a total of 80 complaints related to the COVID-19 pandemic concerned persons with disabilities, mainly regarding social and health-care administrative matters.

Wheelchair-accessible voting became more common, in part in response to a call for greater accessibility at polling sites by the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The parliamentary ombudsman noted there was still room for improvement (see also Section 3, Recent Elections). Persons with disabilities, including blindness, may use a personal assistant of their choice or the assistance of an election official when voting. A report by the Human Rights Center noted that dependence of the blind on assistants to mark their ballots did not sufficiently recognize the needs of persons with disabilities. The Association of the Deaf stated that the deaf community did not receive enough information in sign language about political and public affairs, which, in practice if not by law, limited participation in politics.

According to civil society groups, municipalities routinely did not budget enough money to provide such services and provided only the minimum services required by law regardless of the actual need for services. Sometimes services were denied, and the person with a disability was instructed to appeal the decision, since an appeal lengthens the process of granting services.

An expert from a civil society group asserted that legislation and practices surrounding labor and daily activities of persons with mental disabilities needed comprehensive reform. Gaps in the law created conditions where businesses could employ persons with disabilities for so-called rehabilitative work without pay. The system does not take into consideration that individuals with intellectual disabilities are often capable of full- or part-time wage-labor on the same basis as others. Social welfare legislation defines labor activities as maintaining and improving capabilities, and a municipality may grant tax-free pay of between zero and 12 euros ($13.80) an hour for such activities. If the work requires guidance, it is seen as a daily activity rather than labor, meaning an employee may not receive even food in exchange for hours of work. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health acknowledged that too many persons with intellectual disabilities were not paid for their work.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law requires that a transgender person present a medical statement affirming the individual’s gender identity and a certificate of infertility before the government may legally recognize their gender identity. To obtain the medical statement that includes an affirmation of gender, transgender persons must first undergo a psychiatric monitoring process and receive a psychiatric diagnosis, a process that organizations, activists, and transgender persons criticized as causing significant harm, distress, and humiliation. Access to specialized treatment services is only available after a diagnosis of “gender dysphoria,” which lasts for at least two years, thereby creating barriers to gender affirming procedures.

In addition to the requirement that an individual submit to sterilization, activists criticized the duration of the legal process, stating it could take up to three years to obtain identity documents with the new gender markers. In April a citizens’ initiative to reform laws for obtaining legal gender recognition, to extend legal redress opportunities to juvenile minors, and the abolition of a centralized database on past gender transitions garnered 50,000 signatures. Trafficking authorities and civil society stated they had no specialized services for transgender victims of trafficking in persons and were unaware of their status among the trafficking-victim population.

While the law prohibits “conversion therapy” in medical settings, it continued to be practiced privately, most commonly in religious associations. According to local activists, children in the Pentecostal Church community continued to be provided material that encourages sexual orientation conversion.

The law prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services, and the government enforced the law. Stickers for the banned NRM targeted LGBTQI+ pride events, inter alia.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and reinstatement of workers fired for union activity.

The government effectively enforced all applicable laws regarding the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Workers without permanent residence may not be eligible to join voluntary unemployment insurance funds. Employers who violate the rights of employees to organize and retain employee representatives may face administrative measures, legal proceedings, and fines. The penalties were generally commensurate with those for similar crimes. Authorities and employers generally respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and there were no reports of violations. All workers, regardless of sector union membership or nationality, are entitled to the same wages negotiated between employers and trade unions via generally applicable collective agreements.

The law does not permit public-sector employees who provide “essential services,” including police officers, firefighters, medical professionals, and border guards, to strike. An official dispute board may make nonbinding recommendations to the cabinet on ending or limiting the duration of strikes when they threaten national security. Employees prohibited from striking may use arbitration to provide for due process in the resolution of their concerns.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The government effectively enforced the law. Penalties for forced or compulsory labor depend on the severity of the crime and were generally commensurate with those for similar crimes. Despite strong penalties for violations, some cases of persons subjected to conditions of forced labor in the country were reported.

Men and women working in the restaurant, cleaning, construction, and agriculture industries were the most likely to face conditions of forced labor. The sexual services sector, legal in certain circumstances, also saw incidences of sex trafficking and forced labor. From January 1 through June 30, Victim Support Finland, an NGO, supported 545 clients, including 98 new clients, who had been the victims of human trafficking, labor exploitation, or related crimes.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor but allows persons between the ages of 15 and 18 to enter into a valid employment contract as long as the work does not interrupt compulsory education. It provides that workers between the ages of 15 and 18 may not work after 10 p.m. or under conditions that risk their health and safety, which the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health defined as working with mechanical, chemical, physical, or biological hazards or bodily strain that may result from lifting heavy loads.

Penalties for violations of child labor regulations are commensurate with those for other similar crimes. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment effectively enforced child labor regulations. There were no reports of children engaged in work outside the parameters established by law.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law broadly prohibits employment discrimination. Penalties for violations are commensurate with those for other similar crimes. The government effectively enforced applicable laws against employment discrimination.

The Occupational Safety Administration (OSHA) received 600 reports of workplace discrimination in 2020. Of the 140 reports that resulted in further inspection, 28 percent concerned ethnicity, nationality, language, or religion, 14 percent concerned age discrimination, and 5 percent concerned disability. OSHA highlighted that age was one of the most common reasons for workplace discrimination.

According to the Human Rights Center and the nondiscrimination ombudsman’s office, discrimination in job recruitment was a significant problem, especially in cases where applicants had “non-Finnish” names. In October, Helsingin Sanomat reported that the University of Helsinki was under investigation for suspicions of discrimination. Three students stated that interviews for a position to teach Islam at a school in southern Finland were restricted to students who had a Finnish surname. The Faculty of Theology acknowledged and apologized for the incident on Twitter, and the dean of the faculty said an internal investigation was underway.

In June the government adopted a four-year gender equality action plan, which is designed to advance women’s rights and empowerment by reducing the gender pay gap, promoting female entrepreneurship, raising gender equality awareness in schools, and reducing segregation in education and the labor market (see also section 6, Women).

A report from the equality ombudsman’s office published in June detailed a case where a painter’s fixed-term contract had been extended continuously until she revealed her pregnancy to her employer. The equality ombudsman found that the woman’s occupational safety was not an acceptable reason for not extending her fixed-term contract, and the employer’s actions were in violation of the law.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wages and Hour Laws: While there is no national minimum wage law, the law requires all employers, including nonunionized employers, to pay the minimum wages stipulated in collective bargaining agreements. Authorities adequately enforced wage laws.

The standard workweek established by law is no more than 40 hours of work per week with eight hours work per day. Because the law does not include a provision regarding a five-day workweek, regular work hours may, at least in principle, span six days. The regular weekly work hours may also be arranged so that the average is 40 hours during a period of no more than 52 weeks. Persons in certain occupations, such as seamen, household workers, road transport workers, and workers in bakeries, are subject to separate workweek regulations. The law entitles employees working shifts or during the weekend to one 24-hour rest period per week. The law limits a worker to 250 hours of overtime per year and 138 overtime hours in any four-month period.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is responsible for labor policy and implementation, drafting labor legislation, improving the viability of working life and its quality, and promoting employment. Authorities adequately enforced wage and overtime laws.

According to a service and restaurant industry trade union, there were 800 cases of wage and hour disagreements between employees and employers in 2020, and 35 percent of these cases were from the service, restaurant, and leisure industry.

Occupational Safety and Health: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is responsible for enforcement of labor laws and regulations. In addition, OSHA enforces appropriate safety and health standards and conducts inspections at workplaces. Individuals who commit work safety or working hours’ offenses are subject to penalties commensurate with similar crimes. The center informs employers of inspections in advance unless a surprise inspection is necessary for enforcement purposes. A subsequent inspection report gives employers written advice on how to remedy minor defects. In the case of serious violations, the inspector issues an improvement notice and monitors the employer’s compliance. When necessary, OSHA may issue a binding decision and impose a fine. If a hazardous situation involves a risk to life, an inspector can halt work on the site or issue a prohibition notice concerning the source of risk. Workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. The law requires employees to report any hazards or risks they discover in working conditions, including in machinery, equipment, or work methods. The law also requires employees, where possible, to correct dangerous conditions that come to their attention. Such corrective measures must be reported to the employer.

Foreign seasonal berry pickers do not always have the same legal employment protections as other workers. In some cases berry pickers and wild produce pickers were classified as entrepreneurs, not employees. They can also be charged for training and recruitment services and face difficult work conditions. During the summer, COVID-19 outbreaks disproportionately impacted seasonal berry pickers, most of whom were from Thailand. In Rovaniemi, 180 of 262 foreign seasonal berry pickers were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Government resources, inspections, and penalties were adequate to deter most violations.

Netherlands

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of the Netherlands, a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, consists of four semiautonomous countries: the Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. The kingdom retains responsibility for foreign policy, defense, and other “kingdom issues.” The Netherlands includes the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, which are special municipalities. The six Caribbean entities collectively are known as the Dutch Caribbean. The Netherlands has a bicameral parliament. The country’s 12 provincial councils elect the First Chamber, and the Second Chamber is elected by popular vote. A prime minister and a cabinet representing the governing political parties exercise executive authority. Second Chamber elections held in March were considered free and fair. Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten have unicameral parliamentary systems, and each island country has one minister plenipotentiary representing them in the kingdom’s Council of Ministers. Ultimate responsibility for safeguarding fundamental human rights and freedoms in all kingdom territories lies with the kingdom’s ministerial council, which includes the Dutch government and the plenipotentiary ministers of Curacao, Aruba, and Sint Maarten. (Note: The adjective “Dutch” throughout this report refers to “the Netherlands.”) Curacao’s March 19 and Aruba’s June 25 parliamentary elections were considered free and fair. Elections for seats in the Netherlands’ First Chamber in 2019 were considered free and fair.

The national police maintain internal security in the Netherlands and report to the Ministry of Justice and Security, which oversees law enforcement organizations, as do the justice ministries in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. The kingdom’s armed forces report to the Ministry of Defense and are responsible for external security but also have some domestic security responsibilities. The military police (Marechaussee) are responsible for border control in the Netherlands. Each country’s Border Protection Service (immigration), police, and the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard share responsibility for border control on Sint Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao, respectively. Civilian authorities throughout the kingdom maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: violence or threats of violence against journalists; crimes and threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; crimes involving threats of violence against members of national, racial, and ethnic minorities; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.

Authorities in the kingdom identified, investigated, prosecuted, and punished officials who committed abuses or were accused of corruption.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the governments or their agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution and law prohibit such practices and there were no reports that government officials employed them.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no reports regarding prison or detention center conditions in the Netherlands that raised human rights concerns. According to human rights organizations, prison conditions in some detention centers on Sint Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao did not meet minimum international standards.

Physical Conditions: In the Netherlands there were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse. In a 2015 report on its visit to the Dutch Caribbean, the most recent report available, the Council of Europe’s Committee of the Prevention of Torture (CPT) noted poor physical conditions in Curacao and Aruba, in some cases serious enough to be considered inhuman and degrading treatment, and reports of inmate mistreatment and interprisoner violence in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. Amnesty International reported during the year that migrants in detention on Curacao were subjected to harsh conditions, including overcrowding and poor food, as well as psychological and physical abuse from guards and had limited contact with the outside world.

On Aruba and Curacao, repatriation flights occurred more often to return undocumented Venezuelans who did not request asylum to Venezuela, although the schedule was not regular, and some undocumented Venezuelans remained in immigration detention longer than expected.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reported that Venezuelan refugees were held in detention in Curacao for more than six months, which is a violation of local immigration policy. An August 2020 report by the independent body Council for Law Enforcement stated that at the time of their investigation, there was a lack of staff at the prison and the living conditions at the migration detention center were poor.

Administration: Agencies that make up the national preventive mechanism addressing allegations of mistreatment throughout the entire kingdom conducted investigations into credible allegations.

Independent Monitoring: The kingdom’s governments permitted monitoring by independent governmental and nongovernmental observers such as human rights groups, media, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as by international bodies such as the CPT, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, and the UN Working Group for People of African Descent.

Improvements: In response to the 2015 CPT report, Sint Maarten, Aruba, and Curacao added staff, daytime activities, rehabilitation programs, and electronic surveillance, and prompted by overcrowding due to the Venezuelan migration crisis, Dutch government-funded improvements of the Curacao detention center and prison continued during the year, based on CPT standards.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law throughout the kingdom prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The governments generally observed these requirements.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

A prosecutor or senior police officer must order the arrest of any person unless the person is apprehended at the site of an alleged crime. Arrested persons have the right to appear, usually within a day, before a judge, and authorities generally respected this right. Authorities informed detainees promptly of charges against them. The kingdom’s laws also allow persons to be detained on a court order pending investigation.

In terrorism-related cases in the Netherlands, the examining magistrate may initially order detention for 14 days on the lesser charge of “reasonable suspicion” rather than the “serious suspicion” required for other crimes.

There is no bail system. Detainees can request to be released claiming there are no grounds to detain them. Authorities frequently grant such requests. In all parts of the kingdom, the law provides suspects the right to consult an attorney. The Netherlands’ law grants all criminal suspects the right to have their lawyers present at police interrogation. In Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, a criminal suspect is only entitled to consult his or her lawyer prior to the first interview on the substance of the case. Immigration detainees in Curacao do not always have access to legal counsel, nor do they have consistent visitation rights. On Curacao, Venezuelans faced barriers to accessing legal assistance since they must know how to call upon assistance themselves, a significant challenge as they were often uninformed regarding Curacaoan laws and regulations and since materials provided were only in Dutch. Additionally, attorney’s fees must be paid by the detainee, his or her family, or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In the Netherlands and Curacao, in the case of a minor, the lawyer can be present during interviews but cannot actively participate. In 2020 the Council on Law Enforcement revealed that the 30-day maximum detention rule for migrant foreign nationals was regularly exceeded on Curacao, and that foreign nationals in detention were not informed of their rights.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

In all parts of the kingdom, the law provides for an independent judiciary, and the governments generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial throughout the kingdom, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence and the right to be informed promptly of the charges. Trials must be fair and take place without undue delay in the presence of the accused. The law provides for prompt access of defendants to attorneys of their choice, including at public expense if the defendant is indigent, although this was not the case for deportation hearings in Curacao. Defendants generally have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. If required, the court provides interpreters free of charge throughout the judicial process. The defendant is not present when the examining magistrate examines witnesses, but an attorney for the accused has the right to question them.

In most instances defendants and their attorneys may present witnesses and evidence for the defense. The judge has the discretion to decide which witnesses and evidence are relevant to the case; if the defendant disagrees with the judge’s decision, there is a procedure to address the grievance. In certain cases involving national security, the defense has the right to submit written questions to witnesses whose identities are kept confidential. Defendants may not be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees anywhere in the kingdom.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals throughout the kingdom may bring lawsuits for damages for human rights abuses in the regular court system or specific appeal boards. If all domestic means of redress are exhausted, individuals may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Citizens of Sint Maarten and Curacao may also seek redress from the government through the Office of the Ombudsperson.

Property Seizure and Restitution

The Netherlands government has laws or mechanisms in place, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government has made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens. During the year the government revised its policies on art restitution. The new policy is comprehensive and includes, among other steps: ending the former “balancing test,” which gave weight to the existing owners in contravention of the Washington Principles on Nazi-confiscated art; establishing a help desk for survivors and heirs; and providing additional money for provenance research and opening more of the archives to the public. The World Jewish Restitution Organization noted the new policy, stating that it returned “…the Netherlands to its role as a leading country in regard to research on and restitution of artworks and other cultural property that was plundered from the Jews of the Netherlands during the Holocaust.” The government sought to meet the goals of the Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues. A legal process exists for claimants to request the return of property looted during the Holocaust, although some advocates said that bureaucratic procedures and poor record keeping were barriers to restitution efforts. There were no active restitution cases on Curacao, Aruba, or Sint Maarten.

On June 3, the Dutch railway (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) published its final report on the restitution program it managed for victims of its transport of more than 100,000 Jews, Roma, Sinti, and others to transit camps during World War II. The program, which ran from 2019 to 2020, approved 5,489 applications out of 7,791 total and awarded approximately 43.9 million euros ($50.5 million) to eligible recipients, most of whom were the descendants of victims. The report also announced the start of a historical research project into the railway’s role during the Second World War and noted its five-million-euro ($5.75 million) donation to four local Holocaust memorial centers in 2020 as a “collective expression of recognition” for the railway’s victims.

The 2020 Department of State Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law throughout the kingdom prohibits such actions but some human rights organizations criticized police capturing of facial photographs and storing citizens’ privacy-sensitive data.

Dutch police used photos of drivers’ faces automatically taken by automated number plate recognition (ANPR) license plate cameras for investigative purposes. The use of facial photos, however, is not permitted under the existing legal framework, under which police are only allowed to record license plates. Moreover, the data must be destroyed after 28 days, and recognizable faces must be blurred to prevent breaches of privacy. The head of the department responsible for the ANPR cameras of the National Police stated in August that he would like to see the law expanded so that in cases of serious crimes such as armed robbery, murder, or manslaughter, faces captured by ANPR cameras could be made recognizable and used in investigations. At year’s end, the Scientific Research and Documentation Center of the Ministry of Justice and Security was evaluating the relevant law to determine whether the use of the ANPR in this fashion could continue.

The Dutch National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism’s (NCTV) legal department confirmed in September that the government body had been unlawfully collecting, storing, and analyzing privacy-sensitive data about citizens for years, according to media outlet NRC, citing NCTV internal documents. During a parliamentary debate in June, Minister of Justice and Security Ferdinand Grapperhaus denied that NCTV acted unlawfully but nevertheless in July submitted a proposal for a draft law to provide a legal basis for the NCTV to process personal data. Parliament had yet to vote on the legislation by year’s end.

In December police announced a halt to the collection of personal data from phones and laptops of asylum seekers and the erasure of such data from police systems. The collection program, named “Athens,” began in 2016 over concerns about possible terrorists or criminals within the asylum seeker population, and cross-referenced the collected data with national databases to identify signs of human trafficking, smuggling, and terrorist threats. The practice, however, yielded no new criminal investigations, according to media. Authorities asserted this practice had been allowable under data regulations before the implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulations in 2018. The Council of State, the highest court in the Netherlands, ruled in June there should be legal safeguards that “limit” the collection, use, and retention of data copied from asylum seekers’ phones and advocated for clearer definitions on for what purpose data could be stored and the length of storage.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the governments throughout the kingdom generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the press.

Freedom of Expression: It is a crime to “verbally or in writing or image deliberately offend a group of persons because of their race, their religion or beliefs, their sexual orientation, or their physical, psychological, or mental disability.” The statute in the Netherlands does not consider statements that target a philosophy or religion, as opposed to a group of persons, as criminal hate speech. The penalties for violating the law include imprisonment for a maximum of two years, a substantial fine, or both. In the Dutch Caribbean, the penalties for this offense are imprisonment for a maximum of one year or a fine. In the Netherlands there are restrictions on the sale of the book Mein Kampf and the display of the swastika symbol with the intent of referring to Nazism.

On July 6, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders’ 2016 conviction for “group insult” against Moroccans at a 2014 political rally. Wilders had filed the appeal following the September 2020 appellate court’s decision to uphold the original 2016 conviction. As was the case in the 2016 conviction, Wilders was not punished.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media in the kingdom were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. Restrictions on “hate speech” applied to media outlets but were only occasionally enforced.

Nongovernmental Impact: Several crime reporters and media outlets in the Netherlands faced threats, violence, and intimidation from criminal gangs. A June report commission by PersVeilig, a joint initiative by the Dutch Association of Journalists, the Dutch Association of Editors in Chief, and the national police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, found that eight out of 10 journalists surveyed had experienced some form of threat, mostly verbal, compared to six out of 10 in 2017. If required by circumstances, reporters receive temporary police protection.

Veteran investigative crime reporter Peter R. de Vries died on July 15, nine days after being shot in the head outside an Amsterdam television studio. Two suspects in De Vries’ killing remained in custody awaiting trial at year’s end. A public prosecutor stated that De Vries was killed for advising a major witness testifying against accused drug kingpin Ridouan Taghi, rather than for his journalism. De Vries, however, had been threatened in the past for his investigative reporting. Following the July 6 shooting, television channel RTL canceled its July 10 live broadcast of its show RTL Boulevard, on which De Vries had been a guest just before being shot outside the studio, over threats against the show’s studio in Amsterdam. An investigation by the Dutch Safety Board into whether De Vries should have been assigned personal protection, which he himself had refused, was ongoing at year’s end.

On July 19, a court in London charged Mohammed Gohir Khan, a United Kingdom citizen, with plotting to kill Pakistani blogger Ahmad Waqass Goraya. Goraya resided in Rotterdam and was the victim of an assault and threats in 2020.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The laws in the kingdom provide for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the governments generally respected these rights.

Amid the eviction of demonstrators at a March 15 anticoronavirus pandemic-related lockdown protest in The Hague, two police officers, while making an arrest, beat a demonstrator who appeared to be lying defenseless on the ground. A police dog also attacked the demonstrator during the arrest. Police reported the arrested demonstrator had thrown a jumper cable at an officer before the arrest and grabbed the dog’s ears while on the ground. The Hague police chief Paal van Musscher stated that during the protest, “significant violence [had] been used against the police.” The Public Prosecutor’s Office announced in December the involved officers would be prosecuted for their actions which it deemed were at a disproportionate level of violence. Chair of the Dutch Police Association Jan Struijs expressed his support for the two officers, who he alleged were confronted with “a lot of aggressive violence” during the incident.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The laws in the kingdom provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the governments generally respected these rights.

Citizenship: Since 2017 Dutch law has allowed revocation of Dutch citizenship for dual nationals suspected of joining a terrorist organization. During the year the government did not revoke any dual citizen’s citizenship on the basis of terrorism but affirmed in April that the revocation of citizenship for six nationals in 2017 was conducted on a lawful basis. In December the government stated that since the law’s inception, it had revoked the citizenships of 17 persons. Several human rights bodies, including the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, and Netherlands-based human rights advocates and migration law experts, criticized the practice as being racially discriminatory. They noted those that have had their Dutch citizenship revoked were all of non-Western origin while those of Western origin who had committed similar crimes but only had one citizenship could not lose it or else they become stateless. On December 14, parliament voted to extend the law, set to expire in March 2022, until March 2027. Dutch intelligence and the Public Prosecutor’s Office opposed the extension, asserting that citizenship revocation did not reduce the threat to national security.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The governments of the Netherlands, Sint Maarten, and Aruba cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, and other persons of concern. Curacao expelled UNHCR in 2017 but allowed UNHCR to re-establish an office in 2020. In the meanwhile, it cooperated with the UNHCR office on Aruba.

Access to Asylum: The laws on asylum vary in different parts of the kingdom. In the Netherlands the law generally provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees.

The laws in Sint Maarten and Curacao do not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Foreigners requesting asylum are processed as foreigners requesting a humanitarian residence permit. If an individual is unable to obtain a humanitarian residence permit, authorities deport the person to their country of origin or a country that agreed to accept them. Curacao requested and received guidance and training from the Netherlands on asylum-processing procedures and established an asylum policy based on Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Amnesty International, however, found that Curacao’s new international protection procedure did not comply with international standards. Curacaoan immigration police routinely pressured Venezuelans in their custody to sign deportation orders irrespective of whether they needed international protection. On Aruba the law generally provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. Additionally, Aruba received capacity-building support and training from the Netherlands that further supports the development of an asylum-processing system and its relevant procedures.

Most asylum seekers in the Dutch Caribbean were from Venezuela. Authorities in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten generally considered most Venezuelan asylum seekers to be economic migrants ineligible for protection. There were an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Venezuelan migrants on Aruba and a similar number on Curacao, and another 1,000 on Sint Maarten. Approximately 25 percent of the migrants on Aruba requested asylum. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao deported undocumented displaced Venezuelans throughout the year. Local and international human rights organizations urged the governments of Aruba and Curacao to refrain from deporting or repatriating Venezuelan asylum seekers back to their home country. Local human rights organizations reported that Aruba and Curacao deported asylum seekers who had presented credible evidence suggesting that they would face abuse for their political beliefs if returned to Venezuela. Local authorities on Aruba denied the allegation, noting that all deportations were coordinated with international organizations. On Curacao, Venezuelans who have asked for protection were not deported and remained in detention, although those who decided not to proceed with the process under the European Convention on Human Rights (see Refoulement, below) were deported.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: Authorities in the Netherlands denied asylum to persons who came from so-called safe countries of origin or who had resided for some time in safe countries of transit. They used EU guidelines to define such countries. Applicants had the right to appeal all denials.

The highest court in the Netherlands, the Council of State, ruled July 28 that the government could not automatically deport two Syrian asylum seekers with Greek residence permits to Greece without examining the merits of their case. The council found that Greece was unable to provide for their basic needs. This ruling overturned the council’s 2018 verdict which found at the time the living conditions in Greece were suitable enough to allow for the automatic deportation of status holders.

Refoulement: On Curacao and Sint Maarten, there is no legal protection against returning a person who faces a well-founded fear of persecution to their country of origin. Curacao and Sint Maarten are, however, bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits in absolute terms torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Accordingly, persons may not be expelled if they face a real risk of abuse contrary to the convention in their country of origin. Both governments developed corresponding national procedures but did not amend their immigration statutes. Both the Netherlands and Aruba have legal protections to prevent refoulement. In Aruba, however, human rights organizations, including UNCHR, reported that Aruban authorities deported Venezuelans who claimed they would face abuse if returned to Venezuela without adjudicating their asylum claims. Authorities on Aruba dismissed these claims and stated that due process was followed.

In an August 11 letter to parliament, the Dutch government stated that all decisions on forced deportations and asylum applications of Afghan asylum seekers would be postponed for six months, due to the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. The letter followed criticism from coalition and opposition political parties regarding the Netherlands signing an August 5 letter with five other EU member states appealing to the European Commission to continue allowing deportations to Afghanistan.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: During the year Amnesty International reported that authorities in Curacao used excessive force against some detainees and criticized conditions in facilities for detainees (see section 1.c.). Human rights organizations criticized the government of Curacao for failing to provide a robust system for temporary status to Venezuelan refugees and other displaced Venezuelans. During the year Curacao implemented a new policy to arrange the integration of migrants under strict conditions. Most migrants, however, did not meet the stringent conditions and remained without legal status, living on the fringes of society.

Freedom of Movement: Government guidelines allow those whose asylum application has been denied and are to be deported to be detained for up to six months, during which a judge monthly examines the legitimacy of the detention. If authorities cannot deport the detained individual within this time period, the individual is released. Authorities can, however, detain the individual for up to a maximum of 18 months on exceptional grounds, such as security concerns, with approval from the court. Detainees have access to a lawyer and can appeal the detention at any time. The Ministry of Justice and Security estimated the average detention span is two months. In the Netherlands Amnesty International, the Dutch Refugee Council, and other NGOs asserted that persons denied asylum and irregular migrants were regularly subjected to lengthy detention before deportation, even when no clear prospect of actual deportation existed.

Durable Solutions: In the Netherlands the government accepted up to 500 refugees for resettlement through UNHCR, and the governments of the Dutch Caribbean accepted up to 250 each. Most of the persons granted residency permits or requested asylum on Curacao and Aruba were from Venezuela. The governments of Aruba and Curacao provided assistance to migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers who sought to return to their home country voluntarily. Sint Maarten does not receive a significant number of applications from refugees or asylum seekers for residency permits; of those, most were from the northern Caribbean, not Venezuela. The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide the opportunity for non-Dutch persons to gain citizenship.

Temporary Protection: The government of the Netherlands provided temporary protection to individuals who did not qualify as refugees. According to Eurostat data, in 2019 it provided subsidiary protection to 2,355 persons and humanitarian status to 680 others.

g. Stateless Persons

In 2020 Statistics Netherlands reported the registration of 45,947 persons under “nationality unknown,” which also included stateless persons. According to provisional UNHCR statistics, there were 2,006 stateless persons, including forcibly displaced stateless, in the Netherlands at the end of 2020. The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide the opportunity for stateless persons to gain citizenship.

Some newborns of undocumented Venezuelan parents on Curacao and Aruba risked becoming stateless, because neither the local government nor the Venezuelan consulate issues birth certificates to undocumented persons.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and laws in the entire kingdom provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Observers considered the March parliamentary elections for seats in the Second Chamber of the Netherlands free and fair.

Observers considered the 2020 parliamentary elections on Sint Maarten, the March 19 parliamentary elections on Curacao, and the June 25 parliamentary elections on Aruba all free and fair.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of historically marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons, and indigenous persons, in the political process in the kingdom, and they did participate.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The laws in the entire kingdom provide criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the governments generally implemented the laws effectively. There were isolated reports of corruption in the kingdom’s governments during the year.

Corruption: Investigations started against several former and sitting members of parliament on Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, and in some cases resulted in convictions and sentencing by the courts. In January former parliamentarian Chanel Brownbill lost his appeal to his conviction for tax fraud. In March 2020 a court sentenced him to 18 months in prison.

In 2020 a large-scale investigation of 23 million intercepted messages among criminals on the encrypted Encrochat chat service brought to light corruption among police in the Netherlands, such as officers allegedly leaking police information to organized criminals through the chat service. In April media outlets reported that at least seven police officers were arrested on suspicion of corruption.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Throughout the kingdom a variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were often cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: A citizen of the Netherlands may bring any complaint before the national ombudsperson, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (NIHR), the Commercial Code Council, or the Council of Journalism, depending on circumstances. The NIHR acted as an independent primary contact between the Dutch government and domestic and international human rights organizations.

Citizens of Curacao and Sint Maarten may bring any complaint before their national ombudsperson. All citizens of the Dutch Caribbean islands can direct complaints to their public prosecutors or to NGOs.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law in all parts of the kingdom criminalizes rape for both men and women, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. The penalty in the Netherlands for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 12 years, a substantial fine, or both. In the case of violence against a spouse, the penalty for various forms of abuse can be increased by one-third. On Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, the penalty for rape is imprisonment not exceeding 15 years, a substantial fine, or both. Authorities effectively prosecuted such crimes.

The government estimated that each year, approximately 200,000 persons are confronted with serious and repeated domestic violence. Authorities used various tools to tackle and prevent domestic violence, including providing information, restraining orders for offenders, and protection of victims. Reliable crime statistics were not available for the islands.

The governmental Central Bureau of Statistics reported in September that one in five young persons between the ages of 16 and 24 had been a victim of domestic violence between March 2019 and April 2020. The bureau report identified girls were more vulnerable than boys and men were more likely to commit domestic violence, included physical and verbal attacks.

The government continued funding for Safe Home, a knowledge hub and reporting center for domestic abuse with 26 regional branches, as the national platform to prevent domestic violence and support victims. The center operated a national 24/7 hotline for persons affected by domestic violence. The government supported the organization Movisie, which assisted survivors of domestic and sexual violence, trained police and first responders, and maintained a website on preventing domestic violence.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor-related violence is treated as regular violence for the purposes of prosecution and does not constitute a separate offense category. Laws against violence were enforced effectively in honor-related violence cases, and survivors were permitted to enter a specialized shelter.

Sexual Harassment: The law penalizes acts of sexual harassment throughout the kingdom and was enforced effectively. The penalty in the Netherlands is imprisonment not exceeding eight years, a substantial fine, or both. The law requires employers to protect employees against aggression, violence, and sexual intimidation. In the Netherlands complaints against employers who failed to provide sufficient protection can be submitted to the NIHR. Victims of sexual assault or rape in the workplace can report the incidents to police as criminal offenses.

On Curacao the Victims Assistance Foundation assists survivors. On Sint Maarten there was no central institution handling sexual harassment cases. According to the law, substantive civil servant law integrity counselors must be appointed for each ministry. These integrity counselors advise civil servants on integrity matters, and the responsible minister must act on the complaint. Aruban law states the employer shall ensure the employee is not sexually harassed in the workplace. Employers are required to keep the workplace free from harassment by introducing policies and enforcing them. Sint Maarten and Curacao also have laws prohibiting stalking.

The Sint Maarten government established a victim support unit. Sexual harassment also qualifies as a criminal offense, in which case prosecution is possible and persons are eligible to receive support.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Some religious and cultural communities discouraged premarital sex, the use of contraception, or both. Although no government policies or legal, social, or cultural barriers adversely affect access to skilled health attendance during pregnancy and childbirth in the Dutch Caribbean islands, there are barriers on Aruba and Curacao for the large population of undocumented migrants that do not have access to the public health insurance system. Migrants, however, do have access to generalized medical care. Hospitals provided medical emergency assistance, including regarding birth and accidents, to all.

On July 28, an Arnhem court ruled that the in vitro fertilization (IVF) tax benefit should also be available to same-sex couples and called upon politicians to adjust the law, which only allows the benefit on the grounds of a medical issue. The case involved the tax authority’s denial of a request from a same-sex male couple – both of whom were found fertile – for the IVF tax benefit for their surrogate’s treatment outside the country. The court stated that the law was discriminatory as same-sex male couples required additional services, such as surrogacy and IVF, for biological reproduction.

The government provides access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, and emergency contraception was available as part of clinical management of rape.

Discrimination: Under the law women throughout the kingdom have the same legal status and rights as men, including under family, religious, personal status, and nationality laws, as well as laws related to labor, property, inheritance, employment, access to credit, and owning or managing businesses or property. The governments enforced the law effectively, although there were some reports of discrimination in employment (see section 7.d., Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The laws throughout the kingdom prohibit racial, national, or ethnic discrimination, and the government enforced these prohibitions effectively.

Various monitoring bodies in the Netherlands reported that in 2020 there were more reports of discrimination than in 2019. In total, various organizations received more than 17,000 complaints, an increase of 6,000 compared to 2019. Police registered 6,141 discrimination incidents in 2020, 12 percent more than in 2019. According to various monitoring bodies, the largest percentage (43 percent) of incidents of discrimination registered with police in 2020 had to do with a person’s origin, including color and ethnicity. Almost all these incidents concerned persons of non-Western backgrounds, including Turkish, Moroccan, and East Asian persons. Police reported that, of these incidents, 14 percent involved physical violence, although in most cases this did not go beyond pushing and shoving. Approximately 20 percent of the reports received by antidiscrimination agencies concerned the labor market. Examples include discrimination experienced during the recruitment process or by colleagues or clients.

According to the NIHR, discrimination on racial and ethnic grounds occurred in virtually every sphere (see also Other Societal Violence or Discrimination in this section). On September 28, Minister for Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren appointed Rabin Baldewsingh as the Netherlands’ first national coordinator on racism and discrimination. In this role, Baldewsingh is expected to work with the cabinet to create a multiyear national program against discrimination and coordinate with stakeholders including the national coordinator for countering anti-Semitism.

The ad hoc national Advisory Board on Slavery History (Advisory Board) presented recommendations for Minister Ollongren’s consideration, including recognizing Keti Koti (break the chains) as a national holiday and issuing a national apology during its July 1 celebrations, which commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the Dutch Caribbean and Suriname. On the same day, Mayor Femke Halsema issued her own apology on behalf of Amsterdam, the first of several cities considering such a move after studying their own slavery histories. Societal and political divisions, however, abound regarding the sensitive issue of a national apology, with many citizens believing an apology is unnecessary. The city of Utrecht published its report on June 30 outlining how the city was directly involved in and benefited from slavery. On June 28, the city of The Hague announced it would begin an investigation into its own slavery history to be completed in 2022. The cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam identified their links to slavery, respectively, in September and October 2020.

Another source of debate on racism was the traditional figure of Black Pete, the assistant to St. Nicholas during the annual celebration for children on December 5. For years antiracism campaigners protested the Black Pete tradition of blackface as an offensive relic of colonial times. Meanwhile, more communities discontinued blackface Black Pete in the traditional St. Nicholas parades; major department stores and online retailers stopped selling products showing the blackface Black Pete image. Media noted that “sooty” Petes had replaced blackface Petes in most municipalities, citing a survey of more than 210 municipalities, in which 123 chose “sooty” Petes and 10 reported choosing to keep traditional Black Petes. A 2017 survey found 239 municipalities chose the traditional Black Pete compared to 19 “sooty” Petes. YouTube announced in November it would not ban portrayals of Black Pete in blackface but would continue its policy of prohibiting monetization via advertising of this type of portrayal.

On September 22, a municipal court in The Hague ruled that the use of a travelers’ ethnicity to make screening determinations by the Royal Marechaussee, the military police responsible for border control, was not discriminatory if other risk indicators were present. The lawyer of the coalition of plaintiffs, including Amnesty International, characterized the ruling as a “missed opportunity for the Netherlands” and filed an appeal. In November the Royal Marechaussee stated it would end this practice.

In the Netherlands police received training on avoiding ethnic or racial profiling, although Amnesty International stated ethnic profiling by police continued to be a concern. The government put into place more effective procedures to process reports of discrimination and assist victims, including an independent complaints committee.

Children

Birth Registration: Throughout the kingdom citizenship can be derived from either the mother or the father, but not through birth on the country’s territory. Births are registered promptly.

Child Abuse: There are laws against child abuse throughout the kingdom. A multidisciplinary task force in the Netherlands acts as a knowledge hub and facilitates interagency cooperation in combatting child abuse and sexual violence. The children’s ombudsman headed an independent bureau that safeguards children’s rights and calls attention to abuse. Physicians are required to report child abuse to authorities.

Aruba has a child abuse reporting center. On Curacao, while physicians were not required to report to authorities instances of abuse they encountered, hospital officials reported indications of child abuse to authorities. On Sint Maarten the law addresses serious offenses against public morality, abandonment of dependent persons, serious offenses against human life, and assault that apply to child abuse cases.

The Public Prosecutor Offices in the Dutch Caribbean provide information to victims of child abuse concerning their rights and obligations in the juvenile criminal law system.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 in all parts of the kingdom. In the Netherlands and on Aruba, there are two exceptions: if the persons concerned are older than 16 and the girl is pregnant or has given birth, or if the minister of justice and security in the Netherlands or the minister of justice on Aruba grants a dispensation based on the parties’ request.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: Throughout the kingdom, the law prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children as well as production, possession, and distribution of child pornography, and authorities enforced the law. The age of consent is 16 throughout the kingdom.

International Child Abductions: The kingdom is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Liberal Jewish Community, the largest Jewish community in the Netherlands, estimated the Jewish population in the Netherlands at 40,000 to 50,000.

In April the NGO Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), the main chronicler of anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, reported 135 anti-Semitic incidents in 2020, lower than in 2019 when a spike of 182 incidents was registered. CIDI posited that the statistics were somewhat distorted due to the impact of pandemic-related lockdowns and the lack of large public gatherings, which decreased the total number of all types of physical interactions. CIDI explained that most anti-Semitic incidents occurred in public when individuals were recognized as being Jewish. CIDI stated the number of anti-Semitic incidents online rose during the pandemic.

Common incidents included vandalism, physical abuse, verbal abuse, and hate emails. The most common form of vandalism was swastikas scratched or painted on cars, walls, or buildings, sometimes in combination with a Star of David or slogans such as “Heil Hitler.” Persons recognized as Jewish because of their religious attire were targeted occasionally in direct confrontations. A significant percentage of anti-Semitic incidents concerned calling somebody a “Jew” as a common derogatory term. CIDI reported no violent confrontations in 2020, as compared to one incident in 2019. CIDI also noted that 2020 saw a steep rise in the number of conspiracy theories and theorists, both on social media and in public, which portrayed members of the Jewish community as the cause or beneficiaries of the coronavirus pandemic. In one case, a Dutch-run website referred to the conspiracy theory that the Jewish community maintained control over the world through the pandemic.

CIDI claimed registered incidents were likely only a small portion of the number of all incidents and pointed to research by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in 2018 that concluded only 25 percent of Jews who were victims of anti-Semitism in the past five years reported incidents or filed complaints to police.

Acts of anti-Semitism accounted for 19 percent of all discrimination incidents reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2020, compared to 40 percent in 2019. CIDI and police stated that one explanation for the decrease was that soccer games were played without an audience due to the COVID-19 measures. In 2019, three-quarters of anti-Semitic incidents reviewed by the Prosecutor’s Office’s National Expertise Center for Discrimination and police involved anti-Semitic statements and chants by soccer fans, mostly concerning the Amsterdam soccer team Ajax, whose fans and players were nicknamed “Jews.”

In 2020 the government-sponsored but editorially independent Registration Center for Discrimination on the Internet reported that it received 40 complaints of Dutch-language anti-Semitic expressions on the internet, which constituted 5 percent of all reported discriminatory expressions it received that year but were fewer than in the previous year. The organization gave no explanation for the decrease. CIDI did not report complaints of anti-Semitic expressions on the internet.

Dutch government ministers regularly met with the Jewish community to discuss appropriate measures to counter anti-Semitism. Government efforts included raising the problem of anti-Semitism within the Turkish-Dutch community, setting up a national help desk, organizing roundtables with teachers, reaching out to social media groups, promoting an interreligious dialogue, and conducting a public information campaign against discrimination and anti-Semitism.

The government’s first national coordinator on countering anti-Semitism, Eddo Verdoner, began his duties on April 1. The national coordinator reports directly to the minister of justice and security and works to strengthen cooperation between government and civil society stakeholders in combating anti-Semitism. Following parliamentary motions calling for the extension of the coordinator’s original mandate, the government announced in December it would fund the position for the coming five years.

The government, in consultation with stakeholders, also established measures to counter harassing and anti-Semitic chanting during soccer matches. The Anne Frank Foundation continued to manage government-sponsored projects, such as the “Fan Coach” project to counter anti-Semitic chanting and the “Fair Play” project to promote discussion on discrimination. The government assisted local organizations with projects to combat anti-Semitism by providing information and encouraging exchange of best practices among key figures from the Jewish and Muslim communities.

The Jewish populations in the Dutch Caribbean are small. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts there.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

In the Netherlands the law requires equal access to employment, education, health services, transportation, housing, and goods and services. It requires that persons with disabilities have access to public buildings, information, and communications, and it prohibits making a distinction in supplying goods and services. The law provides criminal penalties for discrimination and administrative sanctions for failure to provide access.

The government generally enforced the law effectively, although government enforcement of rules governing access was inadequate. Public buildings and public transport were not always accessible, sometimes lacking access ramps.

Laws throughout the kingdom ban discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The NIHR reported that in 2020 it received 715 cases of discrimination on the grounds of disability or chronic illness – 36 percent of all cases it received that year – compared to 914 such cases in 2019. During the March general elections, authorities received 139 reports of discrimination on the ground of disability, including regarding inaccessible voting booths for some individuals with certain disabilities.

In the Dutch Caribbean, a wide-ranging law prohibiting discrimination was applied to persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, health care, transportation, and the provision of other government services. Some public buildings and public transport were not accessible to persons with physical disabilities.

Human rights observers from UNICEF noted that in Curacao, persons with disabilities had to rely on improvised measures to access buildings and parking areas, as well as to obtain information.

Not all schools in Sint Maarten were equipped for children with a range of physical disabilities, even though the government reported that all children with physical disabilities had access to public and subsidized schools.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There were hundreds of reports of discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons. In 2020, 32 percent of incidents of discrimination registered by police concerned sexual orientation. Of those incidents, 67 percent concerned verbal abuse, 14 percent physical abuse, and 14 percent threats of violence. It continued to be common practice for police to be insulted with the use of LGBTQI+ slurs. Prosecutions were rare; many incidents were not reported, allegedly because victims often believed that nothing would be done with their complaint.

According to a survey of 3,800 members of the LGBTQI+ community in the Netherlands by a television program, most respondents reported it was difficult to be openly gay in the Netherlands. In addition, many respondents stated that they did not believe they were free to walk hand-in-hand with their partner (50 percent) or to exchange a kiss in public (54 percent). In one case of physical violence, a group of boys attacked a gender-neutral teenager at a playground in the city of Amstelveen on July 27, resulting in the victim’s hospitalization for severe injuries, including a broken nose, fractured jaw, and dislodged teeth. The victim’s father reported to authorities and media that the victim was assaulted after the teenager refused to respond whether they were a boy or a girl. Police investigated the attack; they arrested a boy age 14 who was awaiting trial at year’s end, and continued to search for other perpetrators.

The Dutch government told parliament June 1 that it would not prohibit the practice of LGBTQI+ “conversion therapy” without additional research to understand how the government could enforce such a prohibition while balancing “freedom of choice” to undergo the practice. On June 26, hundreds of persons demonstrated in Amsterdam against the alleged outsized role of psychologists in determining whether a transgender individual may qualify for hormone treatments and surgery in response to media reports regarding the difficulties faced by several patients of the Amsterdam University Medical Center.

An Amsterdam court ruled July 21 that a plaintiff assigned female gender at birth may retroactively change the gender field on their birth certification from “F” for female to “X” for nonbinary, for the first time in the country. The Prosecutor’s Office argued that there were no legal provisions allowing for the nonbinary option, but the court disagreed, citing the Gender Equal Treatment Act. In 2018 a nonbinary person received a passport with “X” as the gender marker for the first time, but their birth certificate noted that the gender could not be determined, an interim solution that the courts had adopted until the July 21 ruling.

Throughout the kingdom the law prohibits discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons in housing, employment, nationality laws, and access to government services such as health care. The governments generally enforced the law.

The law explicitly prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex characteristics, gender identity, and gender expression. The government urged institutions and companies to stop unnecessary registration of gender. The law allows for higher penalties for violence motivated by anti-LGBTQI+ bias.

Police had a Netherlands-wide network of units dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. The city of Amsterdam’s informational call center was dedicated to increasing safety for LGBTQI+ persons. The Ministry of Justice and Security sponsored a campaign in LGBTQI+-oriented media to encourage victims to report incidents and file complaints with police.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The laws in all parts of the kingdom provide for public- and private-sector workers to form or join independent unions of their own choosing without prior governmental authorization or excessive requirements. The law provides for collective bargaining. Unions may conduct their activities without interference.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and retaliation against legal strikers. It requires workers fired for union activity to be reinstated. The law restricts striking by some public-sector workers if a strike threatens the public welfare or safety. Workers must report their intention to strike to their employer at least two days in advance.

The governments effectively enforced applicable laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Throughout the kingdom the government, political parties, and employers respected the freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. Authorities effectively enforced applicable laws related to the right to organize and collective bargaining.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Throughout the kingdom the law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, and the governments enforced it. The penalty for violating the law against forced labor ranges from 12 years’ imprisonment in routine cases to 18 years’ imprisonment in cases where the victim incurs serious physical injury and life imprisonment in cases where the victim dies. These penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Enforcement mechanisms and effectiveness varied across the kingdom. In the Netherlands the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment investigated cases of forced or compulsory labor. The inspectorate worked with various agencies, such as police, and NGOs to identify possible cases. After completion of an investigation, cases were referred to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. On the islands of the Dutch Caribbean, labor inspectors together with representatives of the Department for Immigration inspected worksites and locations for vulnerable migrants and indicators of trafficking. On Sint Maarten the lack of standard procedures for frontline responders to identify forced labor victims hindered the government’s ability to assist such persons.

Isolated incidents of forced or compulsory labor occurred in the kingdom. Victims of coerced labor included both domestic and foreign women and men, as well as boys and girls (see section 7.c.) forced to work in, among other sectors, agriculture, horticulture, catering, domestic servitude and cleaning, the inland shipping sector, and forced criminality (including illegal narcotics trafficking). Refugees and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, were vulnerable to labor trafficking.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

In the Netherlands the law prohibits the worst forms of child labor, and there were no reports of child labor. The government groups children into three age categories for purposes of employment: 13 to 14; 15; and 16 to 17. Children in the youngest group are only allowed to work in a few light, nonindustrial jobs and only on nonschool days. As children become older, the scope of permissible jobs and hours of work increases, and fewer restrictions apply. The law prohibits persons younger than 18 from working overtime, at night, or in hazardous situations. Hazardous work differs by age category. For example, children younger than 18 are not allowed to work with toxic materials, and children younger than 16 are not allowed to work in factories. Holiday work and employment after school are subject to very strict rules set by law. The government effectively enforced child labor laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for other analogous serious crimes, such as kidnapping.

Aruba’s law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. On Aruba the minimum age for employment is 15. The rules differentiate between “children,” who are younger than 15, and “youngsters” who are between the ages of 15 and 18. Children who are 13 or older and who have finished elementary school may work, if doing so is necessary for learning a trade or profession (apprenticeship), is not physically or mentally taxing, and is not dangerous. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment, which were adequate to deter violations. The government enforced child labor laws and policies with adequate inspections of possible child labor violations.

Curacao’s law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The island’s minimum age for employment is 15. The rules differentiate between “children” who are younger than 15 and “youngsters” who are between the ages of 15 and 18. Children who are 12 or older and who have finished elementary school may work, if doing so is necessary for learning a trade or profession (apprenticeship), is not physically or mentally taxing, and is not dangerous. The penalty for violations is a maximum four-year prison sentence, a fine, or both, which was adequate to deter violations.

Sint Maarten’s law prohibits the worst forms of child labor. On Sint Maarten, the law prohibits children younger than 14 from working for wages. Special rules apply to schoolchildren who are 16 and 17 years of age. The law prohibits persons younger than 18 from working overtime, at night, or in activities dangerous to their physical or mental well-being. Penalties ranged from fines to imprisonment and were adequate to deter violations. The government effectively enforced the law.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws and regulations throughout the kingdom prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation, and the governments effectively enforced the laws. The law applies to all refugees with residency status. Penalties were commensurate to laws related to civil rights, such as election interference.

The NIHR, which covers the Netherlands, Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, focused on discrimination in the labor market, such as discrimination in the workplace, unequal pay, termination of labor contracts, and preferential treatment of ethnically Dutch employees. Although the NIHR’s rulings are not binding, they were usually adhered to by parties. The NIHR noted in its yearly report that in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic profoundly affected the Dutch labor force but disproportionally impacted persons with lower levels of education, youths, migrants, and persons with disabilities or physical or mental health conditions that do not allow them to work. In 2020, 51 percent of the 638 cases addressed by the NIHR were cases of possible labor discrimination. For example, NIHR judged that a judicial bailiff company discriminated on the grounds of religion by not employing a woman because she wore a headscarf. It also found the national postal services guilty of discrimination for not considering the chronic illness of an employee during its structural reorganization. Plaintiffs may also take their cases to court, but the NIHR was often preferred because of a lower threshold to start a case. The Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment conducted inspections to investigate whether policies were in place to prevent discrimination in the workplace. The law addresses requirements for employers to accommodate employees with disabilities, and the government worked to improve the position of persons with disabilities in the labor market (see section 6).

Discrimination occurred in the Netherlands, including on the basis of race, sex, religion, and disability. The country’s residents with migrant backgrounds faced numerous barriers when looking for work, including lack of education, lack of Dutch language skills, and racial discrimination. According to Statistics Netherlands, the unemployment rate of persons of other than of West European background during 2020 was more than twice that of ethnic Dutch (8.2 percent vs 3 percent) and the unemployment rate among youths with a non-West European background was also twice as high compared to the rate among ethnic Dutch youth. The government completed implementing a pilot program, “Further Integration on the Labor Market,” to improve the competitiveness of persons with a migrant background who are seeking work in the Netherlands.

In 2019 the NIHR reported there were at least 37 claims of discrimination in employment related to pregnancy. Unemployment among women was higher than for men, and women’s incomes lagged behind those of their male counterparts.

There were no reports of labor discrimination cases on Curacao, Aruba, or Sint Maarten.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: In the Netherlands the minimum wage for an adult older than 21 was sufficient for a single-person household but inadequate for a couple with two children, according to the government. The government effectively enforced wage laws. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as fraud.

On Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, the monthly minimum wage was considered sufficient to ensure a decent living for workers, according to the three governments.

In the Netherlands the law does not establish a specific number of hours as constituting a full workweek, but most workweeks were 36, 38, or 40 hours long. Collective bargaining agreements or individual contracts, not law, regulate overtime. The legal maximum workweek is 60 hours. During a four-week period, a worker may only work 55 hours a week on average or, during a 16-week period, an average of 48 hours a week, with some exceptions. Persons who work more than 5.5 hours a day are entitled to a 30-minute rest period.

Occupational Safety and Health: In the Netherlands the government set occupational safety and health (OSH) standards across all sectors. OSH standards were appropriate for primary industries and frequently updated. The situation was similar in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. On Sint Maarten the government established guidelines for acceptable conditions of work in both the public and private sectors that cover specific concerns, such as ventilation, lighting, hours, and terms of work. The Ministries of Labor in the kingdom reviewed and updated the guidelines and routinely visited businesses to ensure employer compliance.

In the Netherlands the Inspectorate for Social Affairs and Employment effectively enforced the labor laws on conditions of work across all sectors, including the informal economy. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for crimes like negligence. The inspectorate can order companies to cease operations due to safety violations or shut down fraudulent temporary employment agencies that facilitate labor exploitation. The number of labor inspectors, who have the authority to make unannounced inspections and initiate sanctions, was sufficient to enforce compliance. In 2020 the government set up a special team to draft a report and provide recommendations to structurally improve the working and living conditions of migrant workers. Government and civil society stakeholders asserted the pandemic made exploitation and mistreatment of migrant workers more visible. The government implemented several recommendations throughout the year to prevent violations, including ensuring registration of labor migrants, improving their medical position, and launching a multilanguage website where labor migrant can learn more concerning their rights.

Most violations in the Netherlands were in temporary employment agencies that mainly hired workers from Eastern Europe, particularly in the construction and transportation sectors, without paying the minimum wage. The situation was similar on Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, although the underpaid workers were generally from Latin America.

United Kingdom

Executive Summary

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) is a constitutional monarchy with a multiparty, parliamentary form of government. Citizens elect members of Parliament to the House of Commons, the lower chamber of the bicameral Parliament. They last did so in free and fair elections in 2019. Members of the upper chamber, the House of Lords, occupy appointed or hereditary seats. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Bermuda have elected legislative bodies and devolved administrations with varying degrees of legislative and executive powers. The UK has 14 overseas territories, including Bermuda. Each of the overseas territories has its own constitution, while the UK government is responsible for external affairs and defense.

Except in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the national police maintained internal security and reported to the Home Office. The army, under the authority of the Ministry of Defence, is responsible for external security and supports police in extreme cases. The National Crime Agency investigates serious crime in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and has a mandate to deal with organized, economic, and cybercrimes as well as border policing and child protection. The National Crime Agency’s director general has independent operational direction and control over the agency’s activities and is accountable to the home secretary.

Scotland’s judicial, legal, and law enforcement system is devolved. Police Scotland reports to the Scottish justice minister and the state prosecutor, coordinates cross-border crime and threat information to the national UK police, and responds to UK police needs in Scotland upon request.

Northern Ireland also maintains a separate police force, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which reports to the Northern Ireland Policing Board, a public body composed of members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and independent members of the community.

The Bermuda Police Service is responsible for internal security on the island and reports to the governor appointed by the UK, but it is funded by the elected government of the island.

Civilian authorities throughout the UK and its territories maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of crimes, violence, and threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism.

The government had mechanisms in place to identify and punish officials who may commit human rights abuses.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The Independent Office for Police Conduct investigates whether security force killings were justifiable, and if appropriate, passes cases to the Crown Prosecution Service to pursue prosecution. On March 3, Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens abducted, raped, and killed Sarah Everard in London. On September 30, Couzens was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices, but there were a few reports that government officials employed them.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) expressed concerns over the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the prison population. In February SHRC commissioners raised concerns to the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee regarding the measures the Scottish Prison Service was taking to control the spread of COVID-19 among Scotland’s prison population. This included a “considerable number of instances” of prisoners remaining locked in their cells for 24 hours a day and, in certain instances, a number of weeks without access to showers or outdoor exercise due to self-isolation requirements.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions met international standards but had shortcomings. The government documented and was investigating these problems.

Physical Conditions: In his 2020-21 annual report, the chief inspector of prisons stated he examined Border Force short-term holding facilities (STHFs) for the first time and found “inadequate leadership and management of STHF detention.” Comprehensive data on the number of detainees or the length of time they had spent in detention were not available. The report also assessed the detention of migrants arriving in Dover on small boats and found “a general failure to plan for what we considered to have been a predictable increase in arrivals” and “unacceptably poor” safeguarding for children. Most migrants were first taken to the facilities at Tug Haven in Dover, which the Inspectorate for Prisons stated resembled a building site and were not fit for their designated purpose. Migrants almost always arrived wet and cold and then usually spent hours in the open air or in cramped container units before being transferred. Basic supplies of clean and dry clothing regularly ran out, and the bathroom facilities were inadequate. The other sites on the south coast, the Kent Intake Unit in Dover and Frontier House in Folkestone, provided basic accommodation suitable for a short time. Many individuals held there, however, had been in crowded conditions for lengthy periods, without access to sleeping facilities, showers, or the open air. In the three months to August 31, 2020, 29 percent of unaccompanied minors were held at the Kent Intake Unit for more than 24 hours, and a 15-year-old unaccompanied child was held for 66 hours.

Although the chief inspector of prisons commended the Prison Service for swift action limiting the impact of COVID-19 in prisons, a report noted the Prison Service’s measures to protect prisoners from COVID-19 came at significant cost to the “well-being and progression” of prisoners. During the lockdown, with few exceptions, the Prison Inspectorate found prisoners living together in cramped conditions in cells designed for one occupant. Many shared cells were too small and had unscreened washing and toilet facilities. The Prison Inspectorate found the poorest accommodation in some of the older prisons, with Leicester, Pentonville, and parts of Erlestoke among the worst. Cold, dark, and shabby cells were often plagued by dampness, cockroaches, leaking pipes and toilets, and broken or missing furniture and windows. The chief inspector of prisons’ annual report for 2020-21 stated that most prisoners were locked in their cells for 22.5 hours a day. It specifically mentioned as “unacceptable and degrading” the practice of denying prisoners access to lavatory facilities and forcing them to relieve themselves in buckets or bags in their cells. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 10 percent of male prisoners were allowed to work. In women’s local prisons, 15-30 percent had some employment and half the women in training prisons had work for about 15 hours a week. In England and Wales, 52 percent of prisoners reported mental health problems during the pandemic.

The Urgent Notification Protocol allows the chief inspector of prisons to alert the lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice directly if he or she has an urgent and significant concern about the performance of a prison. In September the chief inspector of prisons issued an Urgent Notification requiring immediate attention by the secretary of state for justice to address violence, safety, and poor conditions at a men’s prison, HMP (Her Majesty’s Prison) Chelmsford. Two Urgent Notifications were also issued for Rainsbrook Security Training Center (STC) following visits by inspectors in December 2020 and June 2021 after inspectors found serious concerns, including keeping children in their rooms for up to 23.5 hours a day. An October report by inspectors found “poor practice” placed children and staff at Rainsbrook STC at risk of harm and failed to give vulnerable children adequate care and support.

According to the Ministry of Justice, from March 2020 to March 2021, there were 408 deaths in prison custody (a rate of 5.2 per 1,000 prisoners), an increase from 287 deaths in the previous 12 months (3.5 per 1,000 prisoners). There were 283 deaths due to natural causes (3.6 per 1,000 prisoners), a 65 percent increase over the 172 deaths (2.1 per 1,000 prisoners) in the previous 12 months. This increase of 111 deaths due to natural causes reflected deaths from COVID-19. There were 79 apparently self-inflicted deaths in the 12 months to March, a decrease of 4 percent from 82 self-inflicted deaths in the previous 12 months. Statistics recorded 45 deaths as “other,” of which 33 were “awaiting further information” prior to being classified.

Offenders younger than 20 were held in young-offender institutions. STCs are institutions for young persons up to the age of 17, of which there were three in England and Wales. An Inspectorate of Prisons report, Outcomes for Young People in Custody, found those between ages 18 and 25 were placed in establishments without consideration of their needs and received insufficient support, including structure, meaningful activities, and opportunities to address their behavior. The chief inspectors of the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services, and Skills (Ofsted) and the Inspectorate for Prisons initiated a review of education in prison to assess the impact of COVID-19 on prison education already judged as “poor.”

Separate from prisons, there were seven immigration removal centers in England and Wales used solely for the detention of failed asylum seekers and migrants. In May a report by the Chief Inspectorate of Prisons found that four of the eight immigration removal centers had “dramatically reduced their populations” since March because migrants can only be held if there is a reasonable expectation of removal. Given the widespread use of travel bans to stop the spread of COVID-19, this expectation did not exist, allowing detainees to be released until removal proceedings could be resumed. There was no update to this trend at year’s end.

The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) delegation that visited Scotland in 2019 considered the separation and reintegration unit of the Cornton Vale Prison in Scotland was “a totally inappropriate environment for holding vulnerable women prisoners, especially mentally ill and young women, for long periods of time.” In Scotland the CPT found that two women in the segregation unit at Cornton Vale Prison (known as “the Dumyat”) were locked alone in their cells for 23.5 to 24 hours each day, allowed at most one hour of outside exercise alone and 15 minutes on the telephone every day. They were offered no purposeful activities to structure their days and no mixing with other prisoners. Follow-up research by the Scottish subgroup of the UK’s National Preventive Mechanism during the year indicated the Scottish government still did not address fully many of the CPT’s criticisms.

There were 13 publicly managed and two privately managed prisons in Scotland. In 2020 there were 34 deaths of individuals in custody in Scotland, of which five were COVID-19-related and five from suicide.

According to the annual Northern Ireland prisoner ombudsman report for 2019/20, the latest data available, investigations into seven deaths were carried out. Two of those deaths were due to natural causes.

Administration: Authorities conducted investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.

Independent Monitoring: In England and Wales, the government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. Every prison, immigration removal center, and some short-term holding facilities at airports have an independent monitoring board. Each board’s members are independent, and their role is to monitor day-to-day activity in the facility and to ensure proper standards of care and decency. Members have unrestricted access to the facility at any time and can talk to any prisoner or detainee they wish, out of sight and hearing of staff, if necessary.

Scotland operates the Independent Prison Monitoring system. The 2019-20 annual report by the chief inspector of prisons for Scotland, the latest information available, found that “prisons remain stable, orderly and reasonably calm,” although a high proportion of prisoners “do not routinely access the available opportunities that could inhibit future criminogenic behavior.”

On June 8 to 21, a CPT delegation made a periodic visit to England. At year’s end the report of the visit had not been published.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. The government routinely observed these requirements.

Police officers in England and Wales have powers to stop and search anyone if they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect the individual may be in possession of drugs, weapons, stolen property, or any item that could be used to commit a crime.

In Scotland guidelines allow police to stop and search persons only when police have “reasonable grounds,” a refinement after criticism that stop-and-search was being used to target specific racial groups. Data revealed 43,550 stop and searches conducted between April 2020 and March 2021.

In Northern Ireland the law permits police officers to stop and search members of the public. In most circumstances a police officer needs grounds to search an individual. Some stop-and-search powers allow individuals to be searched without grounds. From July 2020 to June 2021, 27,041 stop-and-searches were conducted in Northern Ireland.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

Police nationally must have a warrant issued by a magistrate or a judge to arrest a person unless there is reasonable suspicion a person has just committed or is about to commit a crime. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, a senior police official must authorize detention without charges for more than 24 hours, and a magistrate must authorize detention for more than 36 hours up to a maximum 96 hours. Police may detain terrorism suspects without charge for up to 14 days. Police must inform detainees promptly of charges against them. The court may extend pretrial detention in exceptional cases. Authorities respected these rights.

Nationally there is a functioning bail system, but defendants may be denied bail if they are judged to be flight risks, likely to commit another offense, are suspected terrorists, or for other limited reasons.

If questioned at a police station, all suspects in the UK have the right to legal representation, including counsel provided by the government if they are indigent. Police may not question suspects who request legal advice until a lawyer is present. In Gibraltar the Duty Legal Representative Scheme provides free legal representation to anyone in Gibraltar police custody earning less than 14,000 pounds ($18,480) per year, the minimum wage. All law firms in Gibraltar with five or more lawyers are required to register as part of the scheme.

In Scotland police may detain a suspect for no more than 24 hours. After an initial detention period of 12 hours, a police custody officer may authorize further detention for an additional 12 hours without authorization from the court if the officer believes it necessary. Only a judge can issue a warrant for arrest if he or she believes there is sufficient evidence against a suspect. A suspect must be informed immediately of allegations against him or her and be advised promptly of the charges if there is sufficient evidence to proceed. Authorities respected this right. Depending on the nature of the crime, a suspect should be released from custody if he or she is deemed not to present a risk. There is a functioning bail system.

In Bermuda a court must issue a warrant for an arrest to proceed. The law permits arrests without warrant only in certain conditions. When a police officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that any offense that is not an arrestable offense has been or is being committed or attempted, he or she may arrest the relevant person if it appears that service of a summons is impracticable. No arrests or detentions may be made arbitrarily or secretly, and the detainee must be told the reason for the arrest immediately. Individuals may be detained initially for six hours, and for two further periods of up to nine hours each, subject to review and justification. Authorities respected this right.

There is a functioning bail system in Bermuda. House arrest and wearing an electronic monitoring device may be a condition of bail. A detainee has an immediate right of access to a lawyer, either through a personal meeting or by telephone. Free legal advice is provided for detainees. Police must inform the arrestee of his or her rights to communication with a friend, family member, or other person identified by the detainee. The police superintendent may authorize incommunicado detention for serious crimes such as terrorism.

Pretrial Detention: In September 2020 temporary legislation came into effect extending the maximum length of pretrial detention, or custody time limits (“CTLs”), from six to eight months. It was introduced to address delays in jury trials due to COVID-19. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Fair Trials discovered through a Freedom of Information request in March that as of December 2020, more than 2,551 persons had been held in custody for longer than legally permitted, such as for eight months or longer. The extension ended on June 28 and reverted to six months.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government respected judicial independence and impartiality.

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and an independent judiciary routinely enforced this right. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence, and the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges. Criminal proceedings must be held without undue delay and be open to the public except for cases in juvenile court or those involving public decency or security. Under the Official Secrets Act, the judge may order the court closed, but sentencing must be public. Defendants have the right to be present at their trial.

Defendants have the right to communicate with an attorney of their choice or to have one provided at public expense if unable to pay. Defendants and their lawyers have adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense and free assistance of an interpreter, if necessary, from the moment charged through all appeals. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them, to present their own witnesses and evidence, and not to be compelled to testify or to confess guilt. On April 29, a law came into force which prohibits offenders in domestic abuse cases from cross-examining their victims in person in specific cases likely to “diminish the quality of the witness’s evidence or cause significant distress to the witness.” In such cases the court has the power to appoint a legal representative to carry out cross-examination. Defendants have the right to appeal adverse verdicts.

In Bermuda the law requires defendants to declare to the prosecutor and the court within 28 days of their arraignment whether they intend to give evidence at their trial. Failure to do so permits the court to direct the jury to draw inferences from the defendant’s refusal to testify.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals, NGOs, and groups of individuals may seek civil remedies for human rights violations and have the right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights decisions involving alleged violations by the government of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In Bermuda the Human Rights Tribunal adjudicates complaints.

Property Seizure and Restitution

The government has laws and mechanisms in place, and NGOs and advocacy groups reported that the government made significant progress on resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens.

The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, which covers Holocaust-era restitution, remembrance, education, and related issues, was released publicly in July 2020. The report is available on the Department’s website at: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The law provides for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government routinely respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.

Freedom of Expression: The law prohibits expressions of hatred toward persons because of their color, race, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation as well as any communication that is deemed threatening or abusive and is intended to harass, alarm, or distress a person. The penalties for such expressions include fines, imprisonment, or both.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: The law’s restrictions on expressions of hatred apply to the print and broadcast media. In Bermuda the law prohibits publishing written words that are threatening, abusive, or insulting, but only on racial grounds; on other grounds, including sexual orientation, the law prohibits only discriminatory “notices, signs, symbols, emblems, or other representations.”

Violence and Harassment: On February 12, graffiti appeared in Belfast threatening Patricia Devlin, a reporter for the Irish newspaper Sunday World, with serious harm and even death. Devlin has been the target of continual threats since 2019.

On August 28, a group of demonstrators protesting the government’s COVID-19 restrictions surrounded journalist Phillip Norton and his crew in Scarborough and threatened to hang them.

In August charges were brought against two suspects for the killing of freelance reporter Lyra McKee in April 2019 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Libel/Slander Laws: In the British Virgin Islands the law criminalizes with imprisonment for up to 14 years and a fine “sending offensive messages through a computer.” The law applies to a message that is “grossly offensive or has menacing character” or that is sent “for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience.” Media freedom NGOs strongly criticized the law.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government routinely respected these rights. Under emergency COVID-19 legislation, the government banned mass gatherings. In April the government officially banned the Atomwaffen Division and its successor organization, the National Socialist Order, as criminal terrorist groups. Membership in either organization carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government routinely respected these rights.

In-country Movement: The home secretary may impose terrorism prevention and investigation measures (TPIMs) based on a “balance of probabilities.” TPIMs are a form of house arrest applied for up to two years to those thought to pose a terrorist threat but who cannot be prosecuted or deported. The 14 measures include electronic tagging, reporting regularly to the police, and facing “tightly defined exclusion from particular places and the prevention of travel overseas.” A suspect must live at home and stay there overnight, possibly for up to 10 hours daily. Authorities may send suspects to live up to 200 miles from their normal residence. The suspect may apply to the courts to stay elsewhere. The suspect may use a mobile phone and the internet to work and study, subject to conditions.

Exile: The law permits the home secretary to impose “temporary exclusion orders” (TEOs) on returning UK citizens or legal residents if the home secretary reasonably suspects the individual in question is or was involved in terrorism-related activity and considers the exclusion necessary to protect individuals in the UK from a risk of terrorism. TEOs impose certain obligations on the repatriates, such as periodic reporting to police. The measure requires a court order and is subject to judicial oversight and appeal.

In May a UK high court issued a preliminary ruling that the restrictions imposed on individuals under TEOs must be in accordance with the provision of the European Convention on Human Rights providing for a fair trial. The ruling allows those under TEOs to know the evidence against them and to contest the terms of their obligations.

Citizenship: The law allows the home secretary to deprive an individual of citizenship if officials are satisfied this is “conducive to the public good,” but not if this renders a citizen stateless.

In 2019 the home secretary started the process of revoking the citizenship of Shamima Begum, a 22-year-old British citizen by birth of Bangladeshi extraction who left the UK to join ISIS. Because Begum was British by birth, the home secretary could only cancel her British citizenship if she were a dual national. The home secretary asserted that Begum held dual citizenship with Bangladesh. Begum’s lawyers disputed that she had Bangladeshi citizenship. In February the Supreme Court overturned the ruling of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in July 2020 that Begum should be allowed to return to the UK to appeal against being stripped of her British citizenship. The Supreme Court decided Begum cannot return to the UK to contest her case and ordered the appeal to be stayed until she is in a “position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised.”

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons:

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: In England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the law provides for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Asylum is a matter reserved for the UK government and is handled centrally by the Home Office. Bermuda’s constitution and laws do not provide for granting asylum or refugee status, and the government does not have an established system for providing protection to refugees.

NGOs criticized the government’s handling of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel from France.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: Due to Brexit, the UK has not enacted a system to replace the EU’s Dublin III Regulation, making the transfer of migrants back to another country very difficult. Those claiming asylum must prove they cannot return to their home country because of fear of persecution. On November 22, the government announced that 23,000 persons arrived in the UK via small boats during the year, compared with 8,500 in 2020. Of those migrants arriving during the year, only five were returned to EU countries. For the duration of their asylum application, asylum seekers are eligible for government support at 30 percent below the normal rate for their family size, an amount that NGOs continued to deem inadequate. NGOs continued to criticize the government for cutting off benefits 28 days after a person is granted refugee status, which NGO stated left some persons destitute.

Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: Home Office officials have the power to detain asylum seekers and unauthorized migrants who do not enter the asylum system. There was no maximum time limit for the use of detention. Immigration detention was used to establish a person’s identity or basis of claim, to remove a person from the country, or to avoid a person’s noncompliance with any conditions attached to a grant of temporary admission or release.

In May authorities released two men detained in Glasgow by UK Immigration Enforcement following a day-long standoff between immigration officials and hundreds of local residents who had surrounded the officials’ van in a residential street, preventing the removal of the men. Observers criticized authorities’ “dawn raid” tactics and organizing the detention during the Eid al-Fitr holiday in a community with a large Muslim population.

Temporary Protection: The government may provide temporary protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. In the year ending in June, the government granted humanitarian protection to 852 individuals (down 39 percent from 2020), 429 grants of alternative forms of leave (down 52 percent), and 644 grants of protection through resettlement schemes.

g. Stateless Persons

According to UNHCR, at the end of 2020, 4,662 stateless persons resided in the country. The government provides a route to legal residence for up to five years for stateless persons resident in the country. After the initial five-year period, stateless persons are able to apply for “settled status” or further extension of their residency. The government did not publish data on the number of habitual residents who are legally stateless.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. In Scotland 16- and 17-year-olds may vote in Scottish elections, as may all foreign nationals with limited or indefinite permission to remain in Scotland.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: UK general parliamentary elections were held in 2019. Bermuda held elections to the House of Assembly in October 2020. Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly were last held in 2017. Scottish parliamentary elections were held in May. Independent observers reported no abuses or irregularities in any of the elections.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit the participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government implemented the law effectively. There were no reports of government corruption during the year. In April the government implemented a new sanctions regime that allows it to impose asset freezes and travel bans on individuals and entities determined to have committed or to have been involved in serious corruption, specifically, bribing or misappropriating property from a foreign public official or benefitting from such bribery or misappropriation.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings of human rights cases. Government officials were routinely cooperative and responsive to their views.

Government Human Rights Bodies: Parliament has a Joint Committee on Human Rights composed of 12 members selected from the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The committee investigates human rights matters in the country and scrutinizes legislation affecting human rights. It may call for testimony from government officials, who routinely comply.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is an independent, nondepartmental public body that promotes and monitors human rights and protects, enforces, and promotes equality across nine “protected” grounds: age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation, and gender reassignment. The sponsoring department was the Government Equalities Office. The commission was considered effective.

The Scottish Human Rights Commission, which is accountable to the Scottish Parliament, monitors and protects human rights in the region.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office, and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, sponsored by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, monitor human rights in that province. Both entities were considered effective.

In Bermuda the Human Rights Commission is an independent body that effectively administered human rights law through the investigation and resolution of complaints lodged with it.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of both women and men, including spousal rape. The maximum legal penalty for rape is life imprisonment. The law also provides for injunctive relief, personal protection orders, and protective exclusion orders (similar to restraining orders) for survivors of gender-based violence. The government enforced the law effectively in reported cases. Courts in some cases imposed the maximum punishment for rape. The government provided shelters, counseling, and other assistance for survivors of rape or violence. NGOs warned that police and Crown Prosecutorial Services have raised the bar for evidence needed, causing survivors to drop out of the justice process. The Crown Prosecution Service was in the second year of a five-year plan for the prosecution of rape and serious sexual offenses (RASSO) to help reduce the gap between reported cases and prosecutions. The plan is committed to improving cooperation between police and prosecutors, fully resourcing RASSO units, and training to improve communication with victims.

The law criminalizes domestic violence. Those who abuse spouses, partners, or family members face tougher punishment than those who commit similar offenses in a nondomestic context. The government estimated that there were 2.3 million survivors of domestic abuse a year between the ages of 16 and 74 (two-thirds of whom were women), and more than one in 10 of all offenses recorded by the police were domestic abuse-related. On April 29, the Domestic Abuse Act became law. It creates a statutory definition of domestic abuse, establishes the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner, provided for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order, and requires local authorities in England to provide accommodation-based support to survivors of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation. The act no longer allows accused perpetrators to cross-examine witnesses in the courts and establishes a statutory presumption that survivors of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil, and family courts. It also widened the offense of disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress, established nonfatal strangulation or suffocation of another person as a new offense, and clarified in statute law the general proposition that a person may not consent to the infliction of serious harm and, by extension, is unable to consent to his or her own death.

On July 21, the government published its Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy to tackle the crimes of rape, female genital mutilation/cutting, stalking, harassment, and digital crimes such as cyberflashing, “revenge porn,” and “up-skirting.”

Domestic abuse incidents in Scotland reached a 20-year high over 2019/20, with Police Scotland recording 63,000 incidents. Government officials suggested an awareness campaign to encourage survivors to report abuse helped drive the increase.

Police in Northern Ireland recorded 31,174 domestic abuse incidents (19,612 crimes) from June 2020 to July 2021, the highest total for a 12-month period since 2004/05. In January the Northern Ireland Assembly passed domestic abuse legislation criminalizing coercive control in the region for the first time.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The law prohibits FGM/C and requires health and social care professionals and teachers to report to police cases of FGM/C on girls younger than age 18. It is also illegal to take a British national or permanent resident abroad for FGM/C or to help someone trying to do so. The penalty is up to 14 years in prison. An FGM/C protection order, a civil measure that can be applied for through a family court, offers the means of protecting survivors or at-risk women and girls from FGM/C under the civil law. Breach of an FGM/C protection order is a criminal offense carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison.

FGM/C is illegally practiced in the country, particularly within some diaspora communities from countries where FGM/C is prevalent. The National Health Service reported 2,165 newly recorded cases between January and September.

The government took nonjudicial steps to address FGM/C, including awareness-raising efforts, a hotline, and requiring medical professionals to report FGM/C observed on patients.

Sexual Harassment: The law criminalizes sexual harassment at places of work. Authorities used different laws to prosecute cases of harassment outside the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities. The government provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. Health policy was devolved to constituent parts of the country.

Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men. The government enforced the law effectively. Women were subject to some discrimination in employment (see also section 7.d.).

Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination

The law prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination, but Travelers, Roma, and persons of African, Afro-Caribbean, South Asian, and Middle Eastern origin at times reported mistreatment on racial or ethnic grounds.

The majority of hate crimes were racially motivated, accounting for around three-quarters of such offenses (74 percent; 85,268 offenses), an increase of 12 percent.

On May 31, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture reported on its visit to the country in 2019. It found persons from Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic groups were over four times more likely to be detained than persons from White ethnic groups. Black Caribbean persons experienced particularly high rates of detention. Those from ethnic minorities were more likely to be subject to restraint and other restrictive practices and to experience disproportionate numbers of deaths in custody and in mental health care. Both male and female individuals from ethnic minorities were significantly overrepresented in prisons, which was attributed to a number of factors including discriminatory sentencing. In 2018 a total of 27 percent of the prison population identified as an ethnic minority, compared with 13 percent of the general population.

In September, Human Rights Watch reported that in the country, black persons were nine times more likely to be stopped and searched, and four times more likely to have force used against them by police than a white person. A black child was four times more likely to be arrested, and three times more likely to be given a caution or sentence. Blacks were also disproportionately represented in the prison population and continued to die at disproportionate rates in custody. A black woman was five times more likely to die in childbirth.

The government responded to nationwide antiracist demonstrations in 2020 by announcing a cross-governmental commission. On March 31, the government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities reported it did not find the system was “deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities.” The report acknowledged impediments and disparities existed but stated “very few of them are directly to do with racism.” It added that racism was “too often” used as a catchall explanation.

In Scotland racial or other discriminatory motivation may be an “aggravating factor” in crimes. Race-based hate crime was the most commonly reported hate crime in Scotland, accounting for 3,285 charges in 2020/21, an increase of 6 percent on the previous year.

“Right to Rent” rules require all landlords in England to check the immigration documents of prospective tenants to verify they were not irregular or undocumented migrants. Landlords may be fined up to 3,000 pounds ($3,960) for noncompliance.

On March 11, the Scottish Parliament extended protection for vulnerable groups with a new offense of “stirring up hatred.” Under the bill offenses are considered “aggravated” when involving age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity, or variations in sex characteristics.

In Northern Ireland, 839 racially motivated crimes were recorded in the period July 2020 to June 2021, an increase of 238 compared to the previous 12 months.

Children

Birth Registration: A child born in the UK receives the country’s citizenship at birth if one of the parents is a UK citizen or a legally settled resident. Children born in Northern Ireland may opt for UK, Irish, or dual citizenship. A child born in an overseas territory is a UK overseas territories citizen if at least one of the child’s parents has citizenship. All births must be registered within 42 days in the district where the baby was born; unregistered births were uncommon.

Child Abuse: Laws make the abuse of children punishable by up to a maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. Social service departments in each local authority in the country maintained confidential child protection registers containing details of children at risk of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect. The registers also included child protection plans for each child.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage is 16. In England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, persons younger than 18 require the written consent of parents or guardians, and the underage person must present a birth certificate. The legal minimum age to enter into a marriage in Scotland is 16 and does not require parental consent.

Forcing someone to marry against his or her will is a criminal offense throughout the country with a maximum prison sentence of seven years. Forcing a UK citizen into marriage anywhere in the world is a criminal offense in England and Wales. In 2020 the joint Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office and the Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) provided support in more than 759 cases of potential or confirmed forced marriage involving UK citizens, which represented a 44 percent decrease from 2019, attributable to restrictions on overseas travel and weddings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the cases that the FMU provided advice or support to in 2020, 199 cases (26 percent) involved victims younger than 18 years, 278 cases (37 percent) involved victims ages 18-25, 66 cases (9 percent) involved victims with mental capacity concerns, 603 cases (79 percent) involved female victims, and 156 cases (21 percent) involved male victims.

Assistance included safety advice as well as “reluctant spouse cases” in which the government assisted forced marriage victims in preventing their unwanted spouse from moving to the UK. The government offers lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage to encourage more to come forward.

In Scotland, 12 cases of forced marriage were reported in 2020, down from 22 in 2018.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The penalties for sexual offenses against children and the commercial sexual exploitation of children range up to life imprisonment. Authorities enforced the law. The law prohibits child pornography. The minimum age of consensual sex is 16.

International Child Abductions: The UK, including Bermuda, is party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The 2011 census recorded the Jewish population at 263,346. The Institute for Jewish Policy Research and the British Board of Deputies suggested that the actual figure in 2011 was approximately 300,000. A new census was carried out during the year, but the figures were not released before year’s end.

The semiannual report of the NGO Community Security Trust (CST) recorded 1,308 anti-Semitic incidents during the first six months of the year, the highest number the CST has recorded for that period and an increase of 49 percent from the same period in 2020. Of this number, 639 occurred in May. The CST noted the number of reports fluctuated with tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. In educational settings, a total of 130 incidents occurred in schools or during travel to or from school; of these, 21 incidents happened in Jewish schools. There were 355 reported anti-Semitic incidents online.

The CST recorded 87 violent anti-Semitic assaults during the first half of the year, a 67 percent increase from of the same period in 2020. Two of the violent incidents were classified by the CST as “extreme violence,” meaning the incident involved potential grievous bodily harm or a threat to life. There were 56 incidents of damage and desecration of Jewish property and 1,073 incidents of abusive behavior, including verbal abuse, graffiti including on non-Jewish property, social media, and hate mail, an increase of 45 percent from the same period in 2020.

The CST recorded 748 anti-Semitic incidents in Greater London in the first half of the year, an increase of 51 percent from 2020. The 181 incidents the CST recorded in Greater Manchester represented an increase of 159 percent from the same period in 2020. Elsewhere in the country, the CST recorded an anti-Semitic incident in all but four of the 43 police regions, compared with nine regions in the first half of 2020.

In September police arrested a man for six assaults on Jews in the London area. On September 20, Mohammed Iftikhar Hanif, Jawaad Hussain, Asif Ali, and Adil Mota were charged with shouting anti-Semitic abuse while driving around in a convoy in north London on May 16. In December police launched an investigation following an incident in which three men were filmed spitting and yelling anti-Semitic abuse at Jewish passengers celebrating Hanukkah on a privately chartered bus on Oxford Street in London. In December 2020 neo-Nazi Luke Hunter was convicted in Leeds after pleading guilty to seven charges of promoting terrorism and circulating material from terrorist publications against Jews, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community, and non-White minorities. He was sentenced to a jail term of four years and two months.

In September Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said the party had “closed the door” on the “dark chapter” on anti-Semitism with the introduction of new rules to tackle it. Labour published its plan for a major overhaul in response to a highly critical report by the EHRC into its handling of anti-Semitism complaints under former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Reforms included a fully independent complaints process to deal with anti-Semitism. The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the new approach adopted by the party. Jewish Labour member of parliament Dame Margaret Hodge said there was “enormous relief and immeasurable hope to every Labour Party member who has been a victim of vile anti-Jew hate.” Former Labour member of parliament Louise Ellman, who quit Labour over its handling of anti-Semitism, rejoined following the rule changes and said she was “confident” leader Sir Keir Starmer was tackling the issue.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn remained suspended from the party for refusing to apologize for saying that while the problem (of anti-Semitism) was “absolutely abhorrent,” the scale of the problem was “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents,” and for refusing to retract his words.

In January, Scottish justice minister Hamza Yousaf condemned anti-Semitic abuse against the Celtic soccer club’s Israeli midfielder, Nir Bitton, noting that “anti-Semitism deserves the same contempt as Islamophobia or any other prejudice.”

In April the Northern Ireland Assembly adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. The motion, which passed by oral vote, was opposed by some members of the Legislative Assembly who argued the IHRA definition prevents legitimate criticism of the state of Israel. In April, 10 Jewish graves were vandalized in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In the same month, headstones in a Jewish cemetery were destroyed in what police stated was a hate crime. The incident was condemned by all political parties in Northern Ireland.

In May a Jewish-owned business in Londonderry was vandalized with graffiti. Police initiated an investigation into the incident.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. Government enforcement of rules governing access was inadequate.

Bermudian law protects the rights of persons with disabilities in the workplace. The law does not include any protection from discrimination on mental health grounds.

According to the government’s UK Disability Survey Research Report, June 2021, which surveyed 14,491 individuals to inform the development of its National Disability Strategy, over a quarter of respondents with disabilities often had difficulty accessing public buildings, while one in three respondents with disabilities often had difficulty accessing public spaces. Many persons with disabilities and carers who had trouble accessing public buildings also reported difficulty accessing important public services. Respondents reported cases of insufficient access to privately owned buildings used by the public, such as shops, bars, restaurants, and cafes. Many persons with disabilities and carers reported that they live in homes, which do not meet their needs to live independently or to provide care, or that they have needed to make significant adjustments to their homes to meet accessibility requirements.

In July a deaf woman won a High Court action against the government after arguing it had breached its obligations to make broadcasts accessible to deaf individuals under equality legislation. The court ruled the absence of interpretation constituted discrimination.

Children with disabilities attended school through secondary education at similar rates to children without disabilities. The law requires all publicly funded preschools, nurseries, state schools, and local authorities to try to identify, help assess, and provide reasonable accommodation to children with “special educational needs or disabilities.”

According to the UK Disability Survey, only one in 10 respondents with disabilities to the survey agreed that persons with disabilities are given the educational opportunities they need to thrive in society. Over half of respondents with disabilities not employed reported that they would like more help finding and keeping a job. Of those employed, half of respondents with disabilities felt their employer was flexible and made sufficient reasonable adjustments, and half of care givers felt their employer was supportive of their caring responsibilities. Only a quarter of persons with disabilities and care givers felt they had the same promotion opportunities as their colleagues.

Over half of respondents to the UK Disability Survey reported worrying about being insulted or harassed in public places, and a similar proportion reported being mistreated because of their disability. In the year ending in March, police in England and Wales recorded 9,943 disability hate crimes. According to disability rights organizations United Response and Leonard Cheshire, only 1 percent of alleged hate crime cases across England and Wales in 2020/21 were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service or charged.

In April former Metropolitan Police officer Benjamin Kemp was dismissed from his job after the Independent Office for Police Conduct determined he used excessive force against a 17-year-old girl with learning disabilities in 2019. Kemp reportedly used tear gas spray and struck the girl over 30 times with a baton. A spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service stated, “prosecutors carefully considered the evidence passed to them by the Independent Office for Police Conduct in 2019 and determined that, taking into account the circumstances of this particular incident, their legal test was not met” to charge Kemp.

The Crown and Procurator Fiscal’s Office, Scotland’s prosecutor, reported in June that the number of recorded hate crimes against persons with disabilities rose by 29 percent to 387 in 2019/20.

The EHRC provided legal advice and support to individuals and a hotline. It could also conduct formal investigations, arrange conciliation, require persons or organizations to adopt action plans to ensure compliance with the law, and apply for injunctions to prevent acts of unlawful discrimination.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There were no reports of police or other government agents inciting, perpetrating, or condoning violence against LGBTQI+ individuals or those reporting on such abuse. There were reports of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity against LGBTQI+ persons.

The law in England and Wales prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. It encourages judges to impose a greater sentence in assault cases where the victim’s sexual orientation was a motive for the hostility, and many local police forces demonstrated an increasing awareness of the problem and trained officers to identify and moderate these attacks. The government generally enforced the law. In the year ending in March, police in England and Wales recorded 124,091 hate crimes, of which 18,596 were sexual-orientation hate crimes and 2,799 were transgender hate crimes.

Sexual motivation may be an “aggravating factor” in crimes. Crime aggravated by sexual orientation was the second most common type of hate crime in Scotland. Hate crime against LGBTQI+ persons accounted for 1,580 charges in 2020/21, an increase of 5 percent year on year. According to figures obtained by Vice World News, the number of homophobic hate crimes in the UK has tripled and the number of transphobic hate crime reports quadrupled over the last six years. Figures received through responses to freedom of information requests from police forces across the country showed there were 6,363 reports of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2014/15, compared to 19,679 in 2020/21. For reports of transphobic hate crimes, there were 598 in 2014/15 and 2,588 in 2020/21.

Statistics from the Police Service of Northern Ireland showed 262 homophobic crimes and 33 transphobic crimes.

In June, LGBTQI+ NGO Galop reported that only one in five LGBTQI+ persons surveyed were able to access support after experiencing a hate crime. Galop reported that only one in eight LGBTQI+ persons surveyed had reported the most recent incident they had experienced to the police, with over half saying they thought the police would not do anything, and almost a third who did not submit a report did not because they mistrusted or were fearful of the police.

In October police arrested a second man on suspicion of murdering Ranjith “Roy” Kankanamalage in a suspected homophobic attack that occurred in August. As of November the investigation was ongoing.

Observers reported individuals identifying as LGBTQI+ were more likely to experience worse health outcomes than the general population, found it harder to access services, and had poorer experiences of using services when they were able to access them. According to the report Trans lives survey 2021: Enduring the UKs hostile environment published in September by NGO TransActual UK, one in seven transgender persons have been refused care or treatment by their general practitioner because they were transgender.

In October the minister for women and equalities vowed to protect LGBTQI+ persons, and especially those under 18, from harmful conversion therapies. The government launched consultations and published its proposals on how to make coercive conversion therapies illegal. According to some observers, the government’s proposals would still leave individuals over 18 open to abuse.

According to a report published in September by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in partnership with LGBTQI+ rights NGO Stonewall, UK’s LGBTQI+ students increasingly view the education system as a space where they feel safe and free to be themselves. The report also stated that individuals identifying as transgender tend to have a less positive experience, with these individuals being less likely to be open about their gender identity, and more likely to have a health condition and achieve lower grades. A report titled Growing up LGBTQI+ published by Just Like Us in June stated LGBTQI+ students were twice as likely to have been bullied and 91 percent had heard negative language about being LGBTQI+.

Section 7. Worker Rights

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law provides for the right of workers to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The law does not cover workers in the armed forces, public-sector security services, police forces, and freelance or temporary work. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and protects employees from unfair dismissal while striking for up to 12 weeks, provided the union has complied with the legal requirements governing such industrial action. The majority of a union’s members must support the industrial action, as demonstrated through an official ballot, and the union must then inform its members and the employer when and how the industrial action will take place.

The law allows strikes to proceed only when at least 50 percent of workers who participate in a secret ballot support it, and workers have provided 14-day notification of strike action. For “important public services,” defined as health services, education for those younger than 17, fire services, transport services, nuclear decommissioning and the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel, and border security, 40 percent of all eligible union members must vote in favor of the strike action, and ballots require at least a 50 percent turnout to be valid and for strike action to be legal. According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the right to strike in the UK is “limited” due to prohibitions against political and solidarity strikes, lengthy procedures for calling strikes, and the ability of employers to seek injunctions against unions before a strike has begun if the union does not observe all legal steps in organizing the strike.

The government generally enforced the law. Remedies were limited in situations where workers faced reprisal for union activity, and ITUC stated that the law does not provide “adequate means of protection against antiunion discrimination.” Penalties range from employers paying compensation to reinstatement and were commensurate with those for similar violations. Inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance. The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy funded the Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service (ACAS), which works to help employees and employers better adhere to collective bargaining and other workplace laws and to improve workplace relationships. If ACAS is not able to settle a dispute, a claim can be brought to the Employment Tribunal.

The government and employers routinely respected freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The law allows any workplace with more than 21 workers to organize into a collective bargaining unit if 50 percent of workers agree and the employer accepts the terms. Unions and management typically negotiated collective “agreements,” which were less formal and not legally enforceable. The terms of the agreement could, however, be incorporated into an individual work contract with legal standing.

The law does not allow independent trade unions to apply for de-recognition of in-house company unions or to protect individual workers seeking to do so. The effect has been that some in-house company unions operate with a membership less than the majority of workers.

Trade union membership levels rose for four consecutive years since 2017, driven by the increase in female members and public-sector workers. According to the ONS, 6.56 million employees were trade union members in 2019. Membership levels were below the 1979 peak of more than 13 million.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced and compulsory labor.

The law permits punishment of up to life imprisonment for all trafficking and slavery offenses, including sexual exploitation, labor exploitation, and forced servitude. Firms with a global turnover of 36 million pounds ($47.5 million) that supply goods or services in the UK must by law publish an annual statement setting out what steps they are taking to ensure that forced labor is not being used in their operations and supply chain. Foreign companies and subsidiaries that “carry on a business” in the UK also must comply with this law. The law allows courts to impose reparation orders on convicted traffickers and prevention orders to ensure that those who pose a risk of committing human trafficking offenses cannot work in relevant fields, such as with children.

The government effectively enforced the law. Resources and inspections were generally adequate, and penalties were commensurate with other sentences for serious crimes.

Forced labor occurred in the UK involving both foreign and domestic workers, mainly in sectors characterized by low-skilled, low-paid manual labor and heavy use of flexible, temporary workers. Those who experienced forced labor practices tended to be poor, living on insecure and subsistence incomes and in substandard accommodations. Forced labor was normally more prevalent among men, women, and children of the most vulnerable minorities or socially excluded groups. The majority of victims were British nationals including minors or young adults forced by criminal gangs to sell drugs.

Albania and Vietnam were the most likely foreign countries of origin for forced labor. Most labor migrants entered the country legally. Many migrants used informal brokers to plan their journey and find work and accommodation in the UK, enabling the brokers to exploit the migrants through high fees and to channel them into forced labor situations. Many with limited English were vulnerable and trapped in poverty through a combination of debts and constrained opportunities. Migrants were forced to share rooms with strangers in overcrowded houses, and often the work was just sufficient to cover rent and other subsistence charges. Forced labor was the most common form of exploitation reported in the UK, followed by sexual exploitation. Migrant workers were subject to forced labor in agriculture (especially in marijuana cultivation), construction, food processing, service industries (especially nail salons), and on fishing boats. Women employed as domestic workers were particularly vulnerable to forced labor.

In Bermuda there were no reported cases of forced labor during the year. The government effectively enforced the law. Expatriate workers are required to obtain a work permit based on the type of work and the expected length of time of employment in Bermuda. The law requires employers to repatriate work-permit holders. Failure to do so has been a migrant complaint. Cases of worker exploitation largely consisted of employers requiring workers to work longer hours or to perform work outside the scope of their work permit, threatening the status of their permit. Penalties for forced labor were generally commensurate with those for similar serious crimes.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than 13 with exceptions for sports, modeling, and paid performances, which may require a child performance license, depending on local bylaws. Children younger than 18 are prohibited from working in hazardous environments or after 7 p.m. The law prohibits those younger than 16 from working in an industrial enterprise, including transportation or street trading. Children’s work hours are strictly limited and may not interfere with school attendance. Different legislation governs the employment of persons younger than 16 and, while some laws are common across the UK, local bylaws vary. If local bylaws so require, children between the ages of 13 and 16 must apply for a work permit from a local authority. The local authority’s education and welfare services have primary responsibility for oversight and enforcement of the permits.

The government effectively enforced the law. The Department for Education has primary regulatory responsibility for child labor, although local authorities generally handled enforcement. Penalties were commensurate with equally severe crimes.

In Bermuda, children younger than 13 may perform light work of an agricultural, horticultural, or domestic character if the parent or guardian is the employer. Schoolchildren may not work during school hours or more than two hours on school days. No child younger than 15 may work in any industrial undertaking, other than light work, or on any vessel, other than a vessel where only family members work. Children younger than 18 may not work at night except that those ages 16 to 18 may work until midnight; employers must arrange for safe transport home for girls between ages 16 and 18 working until midnight. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes, and inspection was sufficient to enforce compliance. The government effectively enforced the law. The Bermuda Police Service reported no cases of child labor or exploitation of children during the year.

No cases of child labor were reported in overseas British territories, but gaps in the law made children vulnerable. The governments of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Montserrat, and St. Helena-Ascension-Tristan da Cunha have not developed a list of hazardous occupations prohibited for children. On Anguilla the minimum age for labor is 12 and for hazardous work is 14, allowing children to engage in work deemed hazardous.

There are legislative gaps in the prohibition of trafficking in children for labor exploitation and the use of children for commercial sexual exploitation on the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and St. Helena-Ascension-Tristan da Cunha. While criminal laws prohibit trafficking in children for sexual exploitation, they do not address trafficking in children for labor exploitation. Laws do not exist in Monserrat regarding the use of children in drug trafficking and other illicit activities. Traffickers subjected children to commercial sexual exploitation in Turks and Caicos.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings  for information on UK territories.

d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

The law prohibits discrimination in employment or occupation regarding race, color, sex, religion or belief, political opinion, national origin or citizenship, social origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, being pregnant or on maternity leave, age, language, or HIV or other communicable disease status. The government effectively enforced these laws and regulations.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, gender, and sexual orientation and gender identity. Women were paid less than men, and persons with disabilities faced discrimination in hiring, access to the workplace, and training. Ethnic minorities faced difficulty in hiring and attaining promotion, as well as discrimination in the workplace.

The law requires equal pay for equal work. Businesses with more than 250 employees are required to measure, and then report, on how they pay men and women. This affected 8,000 businesses employing approximately 11 million persons. The pay gap has narrowed over the long term for low earners but has remained largely consistent over time for high earners. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is charged with enforcing pay gap reporting requirements. In 2019 the finance sector had the highest pay gap of all sectors, with the average woman earning 35.6 percent less than the average man.

In Northern Ireland the law prohibits discrimination in employment or occupation regarding age, disability, gender or gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliation. Teachers applying to work in religious schools, however, are not protected from discrimination on religious grounds. Employers must register with the Northern Ireland Equality Commission if they employ more than 10 persons. Registered employers are required to submit annual reports to the commission on the religious composition of their workforce.

In Scotland the law prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The Scottish government introduced a plan in 2019 to address the gender pay gap, estimated at 5.7 percent in 2018. The plan set a goal of reducing the gender pay gap by 2021 and included 50 actions to provide resources and support for working women and mothers.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Wage and Hour Laws: The law provides for a National Living Wage for workers age 23 or older and a National Minimum Wage for workers of at least school leaving age until age 22. Both wages were above the poverty level.

The law limits the workweek to an average of 48 hours, normally averaged over a 17-week period. The law does not prohibit compulsory overtime, but it limits overtime to the 48-hour workweek restriction. The 48-hour-workweek regulations do not apply to senior managers and others who can exercise control over their own hours of work. There are also exceptions for the armed forces, emergency services, police, domestic workers, sea and air transportation workers, and fishermen. The law allows workers to opt out of the 48-hour limit, although there are exceptions for airline staff, delivery drivers, security guards, and workers on ships or boats.

The government effectively enforced the wage and hour laws. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) enforces wage payments. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforces maximum working hours. The number of labor inspectors was sufficient to enforce compliance. The HMRC and the HSE can make unannounced inspections and initiate criminal proceedings.

Penalties were generally commensurate with those for similar violations and inspections were sufficient to enforce compliance. Although criminal enforcement is available, most minimum wage noncompliance is pursued via civil enforcement through the courts. In August the HMRC named and shamed 191 companies that had failed to pay 2.1 million pounds ($2.8 million) to over 34,000 workers. The companies had to pay back wages owed and fines to the government. The HSE reported violations of wage, hour, or overtime laws were common in the agriculture, chemicals, construction, fairgrounds and theme parks, film and theater, logistics and transport, manufacturing, mining, energy, sports and leisure, utilities, and waste and recycling sectors.

Occupational Safety and Health: The government set appropriate and current occupational safety and health standards. The law stipulates employers may not place the health and safety of employees at risk. The HSE is responsible for identifying unsafe situations, and not the worker, and inspectors had the authority to conduct unannounced inspections, levy fines, and initiate criminal proceedings. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, beginning in March 2020 the government advised citizens to work from home if possible. Employers of “essential workers,” such as hospital staff, grocery store workers, and public works departments, were required to make arrangements to work safely. In July 2020 the government allowed anyone unable to work from home to return to their place of work, as long as their employer had put in place sufficient safety measures. The government issued “COVID-secure” workplace guidance for different sectors of the economy. Employers that fail to meet these standards can be reported to the local authority or the HSE, an arm of the Department for Work and Pensions, which can require employers to take additional steps where appropriate. Certain businesses, such as theaters and live music venues, have been ordered to close to reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, contributing to a steep rise in unemployment.

The HSE effectively enforced occupational health and safety laws in all sectors including the informal economy. The fines for violations were commensurate with those for similar laws. HSE inspectors also advise employers on how to comply with the law. Employers may be ordered to make improvements, either through an improvement notice, which allows time for the recipient to comply, or a prohibition notice, which prohibits an activity until remedial action has been taken. The HSE issued notices to companies and individuals for breaches of health and safety law. The notice may involve one or more instances when the recipient failed to comply with health and safety law, each of which was called a “breach.” The HSE prosecuted recipients for noncompliance with a notice while the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) prosecuted similar cases in Scotland. The International Labor Organization expressed concern that the number of HSE inspectors decreased in recent years, noting that the number of cases brought by the HSE had also declined.

From April 10 to August 14, there were 34,835 disease notifications of COVID-19 in workers where occupational exposure was suspected, including 409 death notifications.

Figures for April 2020 to March 2021 revealed 142 persons were fatally injured at work. An estimated 693,000 workers sustained a nonfatal injury at work according to self-reports in 2019-20. A total of 65,427 industrial injuries were reported in 2019-20 in the UK. The HSE and COPFS prosecuted 342 cases with at least one conviction secured in 325 of these cases, a conviction rate of 95 percent. Across all enforcing bodies, 7,075 notices were issued. The HSE and COPFS prosecutions led to fines totaling 35.8 million pounds ($47.3 million) compared with the 55.3 million pounds ($73 million) in 2018-19.

Bermuda’s legislation does not provide a minimum or living wage, and efforts to introduce one have not progressed. The Bermuda Department of Labour and Training enforces any contractually agreed wage, hours and safety and health standards. Regulations enforced by the department extensively cover the safety of the work environment, occupational safety, and health standards and are current and appropriate for the main industries. By law workers can remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future