Modern slavery report

Modern slavery report

Laurie Sheehan

I was delighted to see your report on the establishment of the Global Freedom Network to campaign against modern slavery – which includes child labour, forced labour, sex slavery and human trafficking.

It is a shock to realise that about 30 million people around the world are still effectively enslaved.

It is very encouraging that a leadership role has been taken by churches and other faiths, and that an effort is being made to enlist both governments and business in an effort to ensure that this evil is overcome.

Looking at the web site of the Global Freedom Network, it is obvious that a great deal of work has already been done, in contacting governments of nearly 170 countries, seeking information about the problem in each country, and commitments from those governments to deal with the problem.

The establishment of the Global Slavery Index, updated half-yearly, with results posted on the web, will enable all of us to monitor the performance of governments to dealing with this problem.

In its inaugural report, the Index found there is an almost universal desire by governments to deal with the problem. However, entrenched poverty, weak government and cultural traditions which favour slavery represent major obstacles.

It listed the West African nation of Mauritania with its deeply entrenched hereditary slaver as the worst.

The report said, "This reflects the high prevalence of slavery in Mauritania – it is estimated that there are between 140,000-160,000 people enslaved in Mauritania, a country with a population of just 3.8 million. This ranking also reflects high levels of child marriage, and to a lesser extent, human trafficking."

Haiti, a Caribbean nation plagued by conflict, natural disaster and with deeply entrenched practices of child slavery (the restavek system), is second on the Index.

"This reflects high prevalence of modern slavery – an estimated 200,000 to 220,000 people are in modern slavery in Haiti, a country with a population of just 10.2 million."

Some of the victims are to be found in sex trafficking networks in advanced Western countries.

Pakistan, with its porous borders to Afghanistan, large populations of displaced persons and weak rule of law, is third on the Index. It is estimated that there are between 2 million 2.2 million people in various forms of modern slavery in Pakistan, a country with a population of over 179 million.

At the other end of the scale, Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom are tied with a ranking of 160 in the Index.

The report said, "This does not mean these countries are slavery free. On the contrary, it is estimated that there are between 4,200 – 4,600 people in modern slavery in the United Kingdom alone."

The estimated size of the problem in Ireland and Iceland is much smaller, with Ireland estimated to have 300-340 people in modern slavery, and Iceland less than 100.

The report found that there are between 3,000 and 3,300 people enslaved in Australia. The good news is that the Australian government is committed to eradication, and has signed up to eliminate modern slavery from its supply chain, and to get Australian businesses to sign up as well.

Edgecliff, NSW

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