Migrant Workers in Qatar When one thinks of the Gulf state of Qatar, sky-high skyscrapers, double-decker airplanes and sprawling shopping malls come to mind. Ever since the discovery of oil in the region in 1939, the Qatari economy has seen rapid growth. In 2018, the CIA World Factbook ranked Qatar as second highest for GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But this also makes it important for people to learn about the state of migrant workers in Qatar.

Migrant Workers in Qatar

The progress in Qatar has its drawbacks. When FIFA selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar was brought to the spotlight. A research brief from the UK Parliament found that Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.

While foreign workers continue to report incidents of exploitation and segregation, Qatar has made substantial improvements to its labor laws and is cooperating with organizations like Amnesty International and the International Labor Organization in the process.

The Kafala System

Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.

By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.

Labor Laws in Qatar

Under pressure from international nonprofits, Qatar has implemented a series of labor laws to improve working conditions for workers. In December 2016, a new law allowed migrant workers to return to Qatar within two years if they had previously left without their employer’s permission. It also increased the penalty for employers found guilty of confiscating their employees’ passports and created a committee to review workers’ requests to leave Qatar.

While this made no reference to the kafala system, the law fell short of addressing kafala’s main shortcoming, i.e. workers still need permission from their employers to switch jobs.

In order to help domestic workers who are often victims of forced prostitution, Qatar introduced a domestic workers law in August 2017. Instating legal protections for over 173,000 migrant domestic workers, the law sets a limit of 10 hours for a workday and mandates 24 consecutive hours off every week, as well as three weeks of annual paid leave. Though in its early stages, the law promises to alleviate the alienation and abuse of domestic workers, some of whom work up to 100 hours per week.

The Qatari government is gradually repealing the kafala system. In October 2017, the government expanded the Wage Protection System and mandated payment of wages by electronic transfer.

On September 5, 2018, an Amnesty International press release reported that the Emir of Qatar issued Law No. 13, which bans employers from preventing migrant workers from leaving the country.

Conclusion

Qatar’s World Cup bid may have been a blessing in disguise. Qatar started its stadium projects using slave-like labor, and now it has slowly opened up to the critiques and suggestions from external nonprofit organizations. As an example, the International Labor Organization has forged a technical cooperation agreement with Qatar and together they have worked to unravel the kafala system. These changes will turn this wealthy country into a more equitable one.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

 


In 2016, the Global Slavery Index estimated that 425,500 people, equivalent to 0.63 percent of Thailand’s total population, currently live in conditions of modern slavery.

Three Main Forms of Modern Day Slavery in Thailand

Modern day slavery in Thailand manifests in predominately three forms:

  • Forced labor
  • Commercial sexual exploitation
  • Child soldiers

The most prevalent of these forms is forced labor, specifically within Thailand’s fishing industry. Human trafficking for forced labor in the Thai fishing industry enslaves not only men and women, but also children from the Greater Mekong Subregion. In the U.S., this $7 billion industry forces those enslaved to endure brutal treatment including severe and frequent physical abuse, threats of abuse, excessive and inhumane working hours, sleep and food deprivation, forced use of methamphetamines and lengthy, confined trips at sea.

Yellow Card

After media exposés in 2014 and 2015 that showed human trafficking and brutalizations of fishers on Thai fishing boats, the country received a “yellow card” warning from abroad; this means that the nation could face a ban on seafood export to the European Union. Following the EU’s actions, the United States placed Thailand on the Tier 2 Watch List in its 2017 Trafficking in Persons report, a ranking given to governments who do not fully meet the minimum standards for trafficking elimination.

In response, the Thai government removed antiquated fishing laws and issued a new ordinance to regulate the fishing industry. It further extended the application of the key provisions of labor law regulating wages and conditions of work to fishing vessels and established in law some International Labour Organization treaty provisions through the adoption of the 201 Ministerial Regulation concerning Labour Protection in Sea Fishery Work.

Thai Reforms & Pink Cards

These efforts led to the requirement of legal documentation and accounting on crew lists of migrant fishers as boats departed and returned to port, which aimed to help end some of the worst abuses. Thailand also created the system of “port-in, port-out” which demands that boats report for inspections as they depart and return to port. The system also established procedures for inspection of fishing vessels at sea.

Other reforms have been enacted in the industry in the wake of two reports by the International Labor Organization in 2013, and the Environmental Justice Foundation in 2014. These reports led to responses by the Thai government to introduce registration documents, also known as pink cards, for migrant workers on board. The government also instituted practices to inspect ships’ crews when leaving and returning to port. Along with vessel monitoring systems, other measures have led to important improvements for fishers, including limiting time at sea to 30 days.

Room for Improvement

However the report from Human Rights Watch, “Hidden Chains: Forced Labor and Rights Abuses in Thailand’s Fishing Industry,” shows how recent reforms addressing modern day slavery in Thailand’s fishing fleets haven’t totally rid the industry of coercive labor practices.

The report also asserts that even amongst Thai government’s pronouncements to rein in human rights abuses, the instances still remain widespread; as a result, joint efforts need to be made. Although the U.S. and EU have taken steps to punish the Thai government for abusive practices, “The EU and U.S. urgently need to increase pressure on Thailand to protect the rights, health and safety of fishers.”

Challenges still remain. Overfishing in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea has forced fishing vessels to operate at greater distances from shore, traveling at times along the coastlines of Indonesia and other neighboring countries. This has led monitoring difficulties both jurisdictionally and practically. This problem is only intensified by poor registration and licensing of fishing vessels — many operate under layers of false documentation. Furthermore, the government’s system of pink card ties the fishers’ “legal status to specific locations and employers whose permission they need to change jobs, creating an environment ripe for abuse.”

Making Progress

Despite these obstacles, progress has been made. Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs defended the country’s progress thus far by stating, “The Government has implemented various legal reforms, policies, and strengthened law enforcement on labour protection as well as engaged closely with the private sector, non-governmental organizations and neighboring countries. As a result, there has been significant improvement in the labour situation in the fishing industry in many areas.”

Progress thus far has shown that there is hope for reform and change in Thai’s fishing industry. Through the help of international players, modern day slavery in Thailand can be defeated.

– Ashley Quigley

Photo: Flickr


Slavery has been practiced for centuries, and although many believe it is a practice of the past, modern-day slavery is very prevalent in today’s society. It’s estimated that about 40 million people are modern slaves, and this article will explore how to end such prominent slavery.

Modern-day slavery has been defined as “debt bondage, serfdom, forced marriage of a child for the exploitation of that child.” Out of the 40 million people trapped in the slave system, around 25 million people are in forced labor, 15 million are involved in forced marriage and five million people work as sex slaves. Statistics also show that 25 percent of slaves are children and 71 percent are women.

Parts of Asia and the Pacific hold the most substantial amount of slaves, while Europe, Africa, the Arab states and the Americas also suffer from the same crisis. It is essential to know what steps and measures can be taken to know how to end slavery.

Social Media

Social media is a key component on how to end slavery. Modern slavery is not a priority compared to other political agenda movements, so utilizing social media to bring awareness to the issue can be a significant first step.

In this age of technology, social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram started as a device used to spread and share news, as well as connect individuals; thus, a simple post can be the beginning of an entire movement.

Education

Another way to end slavery is to educate yourself on the topic. Be able to note the difference between slavery of the past compared to the new definition of slavery; learn which demographic is most affected by slavery; discover which organizations strive to end slavery; and finally, how you can make a difference.

Donating Money and Time

Becoming involved in organizations that solely work to end slavery such as the Anti-Slavery International or the CNN Freedom Project is another excellent action-item, as is joining campaigns or hosting fundraisers for the organizations.

Fundraising at schools, churches, after-school programs and around your local community can significantly help organizations fund campaigns and other events that will lead to the end of slavery. Another significant method of donating time is to write to local newspapers and magazines to spread concerns.

Pay Attention to Survivors

Fighting for freedom is an important step to ending slavery, but ensuring that survivors do not fall back into the system is just as essential. A way to help survivors is finding them jobs and helping them adjust to society.

Survivors can also be necessary tools for how to end slavery — people tend to sympathize with survivors when they hear their testimonies and experiences first-hand.

Contact Your Government

Possibly one of the most beneficial measures is to express your concerns with modern slavery to your local government; contacting your senator or representative can in fact lead to mass amounts of change. The United States government has an essential hand in international affairs, and one should use this privilege as a tool to fight against modern-day slavery.

Slavery has been a virus to this world for too long, and now it is finally time to put an end to this dehumanizing practice.

– Cassidy Dyce

Photo: Flickr

modern-day slavery facts

While many may associate slavery with the past, the sad truth is that slavery is a bigger issue in today’s world. The numbers are greater than ever, and are only growing. There are a lot of myths surrounding modern-day slavery facts, and a huge amount of basic information that many civilians are not aware of. Knowledge is power, and in the effort to equip citizens with the tools to fight this growing threat, these are the top 10 modern-day slavery facts that people should be aware of.

Top 10 Modern-Day Slavery Facts

  1. Slavery is more rampant now than it has ever been. The numbers prove that there are more slaves in the world now than there has ever been throughout all of history, and those numbers are only growing. With as many as 40 million modern-day slaves in the world today, this increase is something to take seriously.
  2. There are more enslaved laborers than trafficked sex slaves. Many people associate modern-day slavery with sex trafficking, but in reality, 68 percent of enslaved persons are trapped in forced labor of some sort. These people are enslaved in industries highly consumed in places like the United States, the U.K. and other first world countries. Slaves are laboring in the agriculture, textile, chocolate, mining and other industries that many people purchase from, directly or indirectly, on a daily basis.
  3. One-fourth of the slave population consists of children. Kids are being forced into slavery around the globe every day. Two hundred thousand become child soldiers and are thrown into very violent lifestyles against their wills.
  4. Forty-six percent of people know their trafficker. With almost half of enslaved persons having been trafficked by someone they knew, this threat is becoming harder to avoid. People who become enslaved are not always engaged in risky behavior or being careless. Many times, these people are simply hanging out with a friend they thought they could trust.
  5. Slaves are cheaper than they used to be, and therefore disposable. In 1850, a slave could be purchased for the modern equivalent of $40,000. These slaves were, therefore, a long-term investment and something to flaunt as a sign of wealth. Nowadays, a slave can be bought for $90. Being so inexpensive, slaves have become short-term, disposable and something that buyers do not want to publicly acknowledge. When a slave becomes sick or injured, they are simply “dumped” or killed.
  6. Poverty makes people vulnerable to trafficking. When people or families make less money, due to unemployment, war or immigrating, they become at risk. Traffickers pose as employment agents, and those needing a job go along with them, only to become enslaved. Families who want a better life for their children are often targeted by traffickers posing as placement agents, who promise the family a good home or schooling for their child. The family never knows what becomes of their child, who is forced into slavery.
  7. It is not just traffickers that enslave people. Sometimes governments still force labor upon their citizens. In Uzbekistan, people are forced to harvest cotton for two months out of every year. In Mauritania, the country with the highest percent of slavery among its people at 20 percent, there are still laws that prohibit slaves from attaining the rights of normal civilians.
  8. About half of the world’s slaves exist in India. Fourteen million modern-day slaves live in India. Many of these people are “debt slaves“, meaning that people in debt are forced to work to pay off their debt. It extends to their children and grandchildren, becoming a multi-generational chain of slavery.
  9. While slaves are cheap, the profits from them are huge. Annually, the slave market brings in $150 billion annually, which adds up to be more than the combined revenues of the world’s four richest companies.
  10. Almost everyone is contributing to slavery. Even though most people are not actually trafficking anyone into modern-day slavery, the fact is that even our electronics have been touched by slavery, due to the gold or other materials used to make them originating from conflict areas. Ninety percent of the shrimp shipped to United States comes from companies overseas using forced labor. The chocolate bars people consume, the clothing people put on every day, the tomatoes used to make salsa for families, the sugar in the candy given during the holidays and even the soccer balls used in school tournaments are all made or harvested by slave labor. It has trickled down into almost all products used on a daily basis. Becoming a conscious buyer and consumer can make a difference in ways that many are not aware exist.

While slavery is a bigger problem than ever, the moral battle has been won; slavery is no longer considered a just practice. It has become something to be ashamed of, and that was not always the case. What the world has ahead of it are the numbers of enslaved people that need to be freed. While the battle has yet to be won for slavery, becoming informed and spreading the word can truly conquer a lot. These modern-day slavery facts are all very real, and when the rest of the population works to create change, the slavery numbers might be able to be reduced.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

End Modern SlaverySlavery is never an easy problem to confront. It is uncomfortable and unpleasant to think about, a complex jumble of economics, politics, culture, and dozens of other areas. It is also very uncomfortable to address the possibility that many western clothes and electronics are made by slaves. However, poverty cannot end completely without ending slavery, and slavery will not end without an end to poverty. They feed off one another, so in order to end poverty, people must end modern slavery as well.

Society tends to imagine slavery as an issue of the past, a horrible chapter of human history that closed with the ban on the slave trade in Europe and the emancipation proclamation in America. But slavery has continued, and today, there are more people in slavery than at any other time in human history. Twenty-seven million people are enslaved today, 79 percent of whom are women and children. Almost every country in the world is somehow involved in human trafficking and slavery, either as a country of origin, transit or destination.

Many people who become trapped in slavery are the people who are already trapped in poverty. People in extreme poverty often try to find ways out of their desperate situation, and many are lured into the slave trade with promises of education, steady work and a better life. Instead, they are sold into slavery, often for as little as $90 a person, and imprisoned with literal chains or psychological pressure. They can then be forced into different types of slavery, including sexual exploitation and prostitution, forced labor, being compelled to act as beggars, benefit fraud and organ removal.

There are laws and international protocols against the slave trade, but they are poorly enforced and often ineffective. Victims fear coming forward to the authorities because of stigmas and the risk of imprisonment or deportation, even when they are the victims, not the criminals. The victims are often the ones to carry the social shame and punishments while the conviction rate for the slave traders remains low.

Ending modern day slavery feels like a difficult task. There is no open slave trade to end as there was in the 1700s and 1800s. The U.N. is one of the many organizations working to free people and give them a new life. Since the early ’90s, it has freed more than 90,000 people by working to prevent trafficking and protect victims. However, there are still millions more to free and prevent from becoming victims in the first place. The State Department has devised a strategy of prosecution, protection and prevention, the “3 P’s” that are aimed to end modern slavery.

One of the most important ways to end modern slavery is by preventing it. Both slavery and poverty are about “excluding people from economic and social justice,” so addressing economic and social issues deals with slavery and poverty together. By preventing individuals from falling into the desperate situations of poverty, they are less vulnerable to slave traffickers. Preventing social exclusion and discrimination is also an important step to stop slavery. Slowing the supply of victims by addressing these social and economic causes is a crucial step to ending modern slavery. Since many of these problems are also related to global poverty, this is a win-win situation.

Protection is another key way to end slavery. The movements of refugees and migrants have made many people more vulnerable, so safe migration and trade unions can help keep workers from becoming susceptible to the slave trade. Those already trapped in the slave trade should receive the proper treatment and legal action. This leads to the final P, which is prosecution of those running the slave trade. The low prosecution rates provide little deterrence for those involved with the slave trade, so cracking down on prosecution can act as a form of further deterrence.

Compared to the number of people in poverty, about 10 percent of the world’s population, the number of people in slavery is small. However, these 27 million people deserve far better treatment. Addressing the issues of poverty that cause the desperation can help end modern slavery, and ending modern slavery helps end poverty.

Rachael Lind

Pope Francis Visit Spotlights Human Trafficking in Europe
Slavery persists in the modern age all over the world, in fact, many first world countries fall victim to human trafficking, yet these instances are rarely publicized.  Human trafficking in Europe is both under reported and under prosecuted. In 2010, at least 2,400 victims in Italy were identified but only 14 perpetrators were convicted. Pope Francis is helping to open the discussion of human trafficking and making headlines with his visit to 20 women forced into prostitution. In addition to providing valuable support to the women, he is helping to garner international attention and support to this important issue.

On August 12, Pope Francis made a surprise visit to 20 women in a Church-sponsored apartment in Rome. Most of the women are about 30 years old from Nigeria, Romania and Albania. They were lured in with jobs but seriously abused and forced into prostitution. He spent over an hour listening and supporting these women. This visit was part of the Pope’s Fridays of Mercy, where he visits a suffering community.

While human trafficking is rarely discussed, the fact of the matter is, everyday people are coerced into hard labor or sex. Both individuals and organized crime groups can be the perpetrators. Gabriela Chiroiu, head of an anti-trafficking program, says that traffickers in Romania “operate as cells,” which make it difficult to find all the disconnected groups. Italy’s expansive coast make it particularly attractive for smugglers. These are only two countries heavily affected by human trafficking. There are an estimated 15,846 victims of human trafficking in Europe.

Pope Francis’ visit was not the first time he called attention to this grievous breach of human rights. Last year, he congratulated the Catholic Santa Marta Group for their work to end slavery. Earlier this summer, he emphasized at the Judge’s Summit that it was everyone’s responsibility to end modern slavery.

Fortunately, Pope Francis is not the only one fighting this important issue. Reaching Out Romania has helped 470 victims all over Europe. Not for Sale, an international organization, provides internships and job training for victims in the Netherlands and legal assistance for victims in Romania.

The fight against human trafficking in Europe and the rest of the world is quiet but alive and ongoing. Pope Francis’s visit and remarks have brought this injustice to the public eye again. The 15,846 European victims need support and assistance that can only come once human trafficking is widely recognized as a problem.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Flickr