Information and news about slavery

Modern Day Slavery UK Government Freedom in Work
Although slavery has been abolished in the United States for around 150 years, slaves still exist in the world today. Currently, the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates there are around 21 million people in slavery across the world.

What is modern day slavery?

  • Trafficking for sexual exploitation
  • Forced labor of children as domestic workers
  • Forced labor of girls in the garment industry
  • Unpaid agricultural work
  • Child marriage
  • Debt bondage
  • Forced labor
  • Descent-based slavery (born into slavery)

One young victim reflects on her experience as a slave:

“I was very afraid, but had no other option than to stay at my workplace. The house where I was sent as a housemaid was occupied by a large family. I was forced to work both in the house and in a shop. I had to work for 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. None of the people in the home were supportive, and I was tortured on many occasions and in different ways.”

5 important facts about slavery:

  1. 90 percent of slavery is exploitation done by individuals and companies, while the remaining 10 percent is through forced work by the state, rebel military groups or prisons.
  2. Although slavery exists within every country, more than half of today’s 21 million slaves are found in Asia.
  3. 55 percent of slaves are women and children, since these populations are vulnerable and easily exploited.
  4. Human trafficking ranks as the third most profitable global crime, behind drug and arms dealings. In 2005, illegal profits from forced labor amounted to more than $44 billion.
  5. Forced labor impedes economic development and perpetuates poverty. For example, people in forced labor lose at least $21 billion each year in unpaid wages and recruitment fees.

The United Kingdom (UK) government launched a program to combat slavery in July. The Work in Freedom program aims to prevent 100,000 girls and women across South Asia from entering into labor trafficking. Through the Department for International Development and the ILO, £9.75 million will be invested in the Work for Freedom program over five years.

How will the Work for Freedom program combat slavery?

Millions of men and women from poor communities in Asia migrate to find employment and to help their families financially. The Work for Freedom project aims to tackle known trafficking routes to prevent these men and women from being exploited.

Since most of the trafficking in Asia is related to labor, Work for Freedom will focus on providing women with necessary skills and vocational training to help them secure legal employment with a decent wage. The program will also educate vulnerable men and women of their rights, and help them organize collectively. Finally, the program will prevent child labor by helping children stay in school instead of migrating for work.

The UK’s Work for Freedom program will help reduce slavery, in turn empowering the world’s vulnerable and decreasing global poverty.

– Caressa Kruth

Sources: The Guardian, The Guardian: Modern Day Slavery Explainer, Gov.UK: Work in Freedom, Gov.UK


Since 2011, the U.S. Department of State has released an annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), detailing the U.S. government’s evaluation of the human trafficking situation around the world. The report is organized by ranking 188 governments in their effectiveness in preventing human trafficking and addressing the issues associated with modern day slavery. The stated purpose of publishing these reports is to hold traffickers accountable for their actions and to prevent more people from falling victim.

The TIP reports organize countries into three different tiers, determined by the country’s governmental cooperation in meeting the standards set by the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Tier One countries have the highest levels of progress in addressing and preventing human trafficking. On average, 30 countries fall in the Tier One range. Tier 2 maintains two different levels: Tier 2 and the Tier 2 Watch list, typically with approximately 130 countries in this category.

Finally, about 20 countries make up the Tier 3 level. A country is deemed Tier 3 for failed governmental attention to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and blatant trafficking. Countries on the Tier 3 list are susceptible to sanctions from the U.S. government.

Proponents of the TIP report praise the effectiveness of monitoring progress and the accountability systems. The TIP reports have strengthened through their systematic measurements of governmental actions.

Such believers in the TIP reports claim they prevent thousands of people from being recruited into the trafficking network and purport that countries around the world are spurred to action by these annual rankings. Supporters commend the State Department for taking action on this global cause and providing leadership in getting governments to examine the trafficking situations within their countries and spurring change across the world.

Furthermore, many nonprofit organizations and relief agencies cite the data in the TIP reports and use this information to develop their action plans.

While responses to the TIP reports have largely been positive, critics point out many perceived flaws in the system. Some believe the reports merely cause diplomatic problems and put tensions on relationships between various countries.

One problem critics have pointed out is how the rankings are determined: they are based not on the extent of trafficking in a country, but only on governmental action towards trafficking. Others simply disagree with the premise of the United States ranking other countries, since the U.S. has problems with trafficking as well.

The 2013 TIP Report, which was released in June, drew much attention to its downgrading of China and Russia, since these big trading countries are now liable to sanctions from the U.S. government.

– Allison Meade
Sources: Not For Sale Campaign, U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Person Report 2013

On July 15, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the International Labour Organisation, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine announced the launch of a new slavery prevention program entitled “Work in Freedom.” This project includes a 9.75 million GBP commitment (over 15 million USD) with the purpose of protecting females in South Asia from labor trafficking.

Human trafficking stands out as a growing global issue, with approximately 21 million global citizens forced into labor or prostitution around the world. The majority of modern day slaves find themselves tricked into becoming part of one of these millions of trafficked people. Traffickers target very poor and often remote areas promising to help people find jobs, when in reality they are forced into slavery. The United Nations deemed human trafficking the third-largest global criminal industry.

The plan is to target the most heavily travelled human trafficking routes with access to South Asia, focusing on Bangladesh, Nepal, and some Gulf States. The Work in Freedom Project also plans to provide 50,000 women with technical skills and training to only help them find employment, and to enable them to recognize a trafficker’s ploys and secure legal work contracts guaranteeing proper wages.An additional 30,000 women will receive education to help them learn their rights and find employment as part of the Work in Freedom Project.

Other focuses of Britain’s international support involve child labor. The plan includes keeping girls under 16 years old in school and teaching women to recognize ‘recruitment fees’ and other unethical charges traffickers place as a burden on families in their ‘recruitment’ schemes.

The Work in Freedom Project also hopes to build momentum in governments, employer, and labor unions to cooperate in addressing the issues associated with human trafficking. It calls for employers in the private sector to step up their regulation to prevent hiring trafficked workers.

Work in Freedom demonstrates the United Kingdom’s commitment to international aid. Their new five year program tackles one of modern society’s biggest issues and provides assistance for thousands of women without a voice by giving them education, the power to stand up for themselves, and economic opportunities.

– Allison Meade

Sources: U.K. Government Press Release, Health Canal International Labor Organization
Photo: [email protected]

TIMBUKTU, Mali — Though slavery was formally abolished in the West African nation of Mali in 1960, roughly 200,000 people continue to live as modern-day slaves and hundreds more are only now experiencing freedom for the first time.

According to the advocacy group Anti-Slavery International, “descent-based slavery” has existed for generations in Mali but worsened in March 2012 when Islamist rebels gained control of northern Mali. The lighter-skinned Tuaregs and Arab Moors used the ethnic background they shared with jihadists to control darker-skinned ethnic groups.

Many Tuareg and Arab Moor families recaptured former slaves, and those enslaved reported that their treatment worsened during the Islamists’ ten-month reign, during which a highly conservative brand of Islamic sharia law was enforced. A French-led military intervention rid Mali’s northern towns of these Islamists in early 2013, and many Tuaregs and Arab Moors fled the region fearing reprisal for their actions have .

While many former slaveholders have fled the region, the impact of slavery has left a possibly irreparable gulf between Mali’s different ethnic groups. Tuaregs and Arab Moors formerly raided communities of darker-skinned populations in order to acquire slaves for a variety of unpaid roles, ranging from salt mining to sexual slavery. Darker-skinned ethnic groups also entered voluntarily into bondage systems to feed their families because, due to discrimination, they are unable to acquire a better source of income.

These groups have adopted the language and customs of the Tuaregs and Arab Moors, but they are still subjected to unfair treatment and poor working conditions. Those who have managed to escape slavery often come to Timbuktu in order to find employment, but they end up with jobs closely resembling their former experiences as slaves.

Though former slaves celebrate as their longtime captors leave Mali, a guerrilla war surges on. Many slaves have escaped from the families that held control over their bloodline for generations, but the impact of slavery is readily apparent. Today, Timbuktu is a wasteland offering virtually no economic opportunities, even though many of its citizens are finally free.

– Katie Bandera

Source: Antislavery, Washington Post
Photo: The Guardian

For most of us, the concept of slavery is an abstract reference to a primitive and barbaric process, a blight on our nations’ histories and also, firmly in the past. A devastating report by CNN shows that in one country, the practice is still alive and well.

Mauritania is a poor Muslim country on the West coast of Africa. Largely ignored by the international community, it has also managed to uphold slavery, not officially abolishing it until 2007 – more than one hundred years after Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves of the United States. Even so, only one case of slave ownership has been successfully prosecuted in a country teeming with slave owners. Estimates of what percentage of the population is enslaved run as high as 18% – near 3.5 million people.

The term ‘slavery’ is not applied lightly. These people are made to work for one master, doing hard manual labour for no wages. They are often mistreated, denied healthcare, education, the right to own property, clothing, proper food or basic rights. A woman CNN interviewed, Moulkheir Mint Yarba, was repeatedly raped and one of her infant children left to die and be eaten by ants when she was working in the field. She was not allowed to give her baby a proper burial.

Slavery persists because of an ingrained caste system, in which family ancestry determines social standing. Historically in Mauritania, out of the four major ethnic groups (White Moors, Black Moors, Black Africans and Harantine), the Harantine are the traditional slave class. They are kept subordinate through systematic discrimination and told that Islam dictates they must be slaves. Denied an education, religion is the closest thing they have to knowledge, and this is a powerful weapon.

Foreigners have had difficulty infiltrating Mauritania because the nation seems set on preserving the status quo. CNN described the great lengths they had to go to even to write a report on the situation, much less intervene, inventing a fake investigation, dodging an official assigned to watch them, knowing they could be deported or tortured if discovered.

Currently, Anti-Slavery International is working with the local organization SOS Enclaves to work on freeing individual slaves, but are facing great odds. Not only the government of Mauritania, but the political instability that plagues the nation, threats to the anti-slave workers themselves and the indoctrination of the citizens of Mauritania.

Moulkheir herself was lucky – after enduring unimaginable circumstances, she and her daughter, with the help of SOS, managed to escape and form a new life for themselves. They live together in a one-room shack and are even attended a school for former slaves, funded by the SOS-Enclave.

However, most of the 3.5 million slaves in Mauritania are not so lucky. During the interview, CNN asked Free the Slaves worker Kevin Bales what could help Mauritania, to which he replied that global demand for change could make a difference. “It’s a destitute country. It needs a few friends in the world.”

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Source: CNN, AntiSlavery
Photo: Smithsonian Magazine