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UK may have failed to comply with human rights obligations over Grenfell Tower fire: UN

The UK government may have failed to comply with its international human rights obligations over the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 79 people and left hundreds homeless, according to the UN.

Published: 10th March 2018 12:36 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th March 2018 12:36 PM   |  A+A-

Firefighters survey the damage to the fire-gutted Grenfell Tower in London, Friday, June 16, 2017, after a fire engulfed the 24-story building. | AP

By IANS

LONDON: The UK government may have failed to comply with its international human rights obligations over the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 79 people and left hundreds homeless, according to the UN.

Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, told the Guardian on Friday that she was concerned that international human rights standards on housing safety may have been breached, and could have been a factor in the causes of the tragedy last June.

Farha was concerned that residents had told her they had been excluded from decisions about housing safety issues before the fire and had not been engaged "in a meaningful way" by the authorities about their views and needs in its aftermath.

A Canadian lawyer and the UN's unpaid housing investigator since 2014, Farha was in London this week on an informal visit to meet Grenfell survivors and local residents, at the invitation of human rights law academics and activists.

The special rapporteur said she had been struck by survivors' "feelings of not being heard, of feeling invisible, and not being treated like equal human beings".

Safety standards in the tower - from the types of cladding used on the building to electrical circuits and ease of access to the building for fire and rescue vehicles - may have breached residents' human rights to safe and secure housing, she told the Guardian.

The UK government was still facing increasing criticism from survivors' groups, residents and local politicians over what they feel is an unrepresentative and overly rigid official inquiry, headed by the retired judge Martin Moore-Bick.

In response to Farha's statement, a government spokesperson said: "Grenfell was an awful tragedy that should never have happened and nothing like it should ever be allowed to happen again...

"Had the UN's special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing approached the government to discuss her concerns we would gladly have met with her to discuss the work we are doing to support the Grenfell community."

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled plans to tackle what she called Britain's "national housing crisis". 

She promised a freeing up of planning rules, and pleaded with developers to "do their duty to Britain and build the homes our country needs".



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