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living conditions in Qatar

Qatar is a small nation bordered predominantly by Saudi Arabia. The nation has the highest GDP production in the Arab speaking world. Because of this, living standards are higher than many other Middle Eastern nations. Yet, Qatar is not without its issues surrounding living conditions despite its perceived excessive wealth.

10 Things to Know About Living Conditions in Qatar

  1. Qatar has a forced labor problem. Migrant workers make up 90 percent of Qatar’s population. Under a 2009 sponsorship law, workers have to hand over their passports to their employers. Workers often hesitate to complain or report abuses because this makes them vulnerable to the whims of their employers. Workers pay thousands to recruiters and often arrive to find that they are being paid less than promised, but they can’t leave because they are under contract and their employers have their passports.
  2. Qatar has a unique single-payer public health care system and a new national health strategy that seeks to improve outcomes for those living in Qatar. Qatar has one of the most effective healthcare systems in the Middle East. It ranks 13 in the world’s best healthcare systems and is number one in the Middle East.
  3. Men outnumber women four to one. There are only 700,000 women in Qatar, a country of 2.5 million people. This is due to the massive influx of migrant workers in the country, which are mostly men trying to provide for their families.
  4. Women in Qatar are twice as likely to pursue higher education than men. Men often decide to go straight into work after high school. Although women graduate at twice the rate of men, they only occupy 31 percent of the workforce.
  5. Women’s rights are limited in Qatar. The nation is a religious and conservative Muslim country, subscribing to Sharia law. It is still a taboo for women to fraternize with men. Women in Qatar cannot marry without the consent of a male family member. While men have uninhibited access to divorce, a woman can only divorce a man on narrow grounds. A woman cannot divorce her husband in Qatar if she is beaten or raped by her husband because domestic abuse and marital rape are not illegal under Qatari law.
  6. Qatar has the first Refugee Asylum Law in the Gulf. Qatar recently passed a law allowing refugees to seek asylum in the country. In an attempt to improve its public image for the upcoming world cup, Qatar has abolished exit visas for migrant workers. This may be a good first step in resolving the countries problem with forced labor. The law offers freedom of religion and freedom of movement for refugees as well as giving them access to an education while in Qatar.
  7. It is believed that upwards of at least 12,000 workers have died in the construction of World Cup stadium. This is due to workers being forced to build outside during summer in a country where temperatures usually can reach up to 50C (122F) degrees. There is a law banning work outside from June to August from 11:30- 3:00, but this has done little to decrease the work-related deaths. The most support for workers has come not from the Qatari Government, but from the Human Rights Watch, which has been trying to get the country to provide better conditions for workers.
  8. Pregnancy can be a crime. Sex outside of wedlock is illegal in Qatar, and extramarital affairs are punishable by stoning to death. Doctors are even required by law to refer to any pregnant women who cannot prove they are married to the authorities.
  9. Half of Qatar’s fresh water comes from a desalination process, and chemicals are added to the water to keep it from corroding the pipes. Unfortunately, the water often lacks basic minerals and contains harmful bacteria and is often not potable. This water is mostly good for use in agriculture. Qatar has the highest domestic water consumption in the world. The average household in Qatar uses 430 liters of water a day. Crops are watered with water from aquifers, which are being used up faster than they can be replenished.
  10. Qatar has a significant expat population. People from many different nationalities flock to Qatar for a number of reasons, including job opportunities and fewer tax restrictions. Those arriving from nearby nations experience less of a culture shock than those arriving from Western Europe although English is still the second highest spoken language in the region. Qatar is actively promoting the influx of expats through reduced visa restrictions.

Life in Qatar is vastly different and often times more difficult than that of the Western World. Human rights abuses still occur every day. Women, by international standards, are struggling to find a prominent socio-economic role. Even still, Qatar has a few unique features, including its single-payer healthcare system, that separate it positively from other nations. There is clearly more work to be done in regards to living conditions in Qatar.

Sarah Bradley
Photo: Flickr

Failed statesA country is considered a ‘failed state’ when it cannot control its territory and population as well as when fails to secure its borders. A failed state has barely functioning executive, legislative and judicial institutions, which in turn, breeds corruption since the honest economic activity is not rewarded by the state. Here are 10 facts about failed states.

10 Facts About Failed States

  1. Throughout history, civil wars, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations have led to states losing the capacity to regulate and control themselves. When a state loses the capacity to implement policies throughout the country, when it cannot establish public order and equity, and when the government cannot assure the independence of institutions, instability and insecurity reign.

  2. North Korea is often called the ‘hermit kingdom’ due to its isolated nature. The country frequently receives low scores on its legitimacy of state. Aid organizations estimate that around 2 million people have died from food shortages since the mid-1990s. Part of this can be traced back to the economic institutions that prohibit people from owning property as the state collectively owns most land and capital.

  3. Another sign of a faile state is forced labor. In Uzbekistan, students are forced to pick cotton, one of Uzbekistan’s biggest exports. In September, while teachers are relegated to the role of labor recruiters. The children are given quotas of between 20 and 60 kilograms, which varies according to their age. Thus, the children are unable to break out of the cycle of poverty due to their lack of learning.

  4. Syria can be considered a failed state as it is experiencing a civil war that has claimed 100,000 lives and has no end in sight. The country receives an extremely low score for security apparatus, according to Foreign Policy magazine’s annual metric data.

  5. Egypt’s elite is monopolizing the economy to block the entry of new competitors. Under Hosni Mubarak, the military and government own large portions of the economy. According to some estimates, they collectively own up to 40 percent. Even after liberalization, the economy was privatized into the hands of Mubarak’s friends and sons’ companies. Big businesses put a stranglehold on the economy while Mubarak’s family accumulated an estimated $70 billion fortune.

  6. In most failed states, it is typical for the regime and its leaders to prey on its constituents. The regime tends to be motivated by ethnic or intercommunal hostility or even the insecurities of the elite, which lead to the victimization of their citizens or a subset demographic which is deemed ‘hostile.’ This is the case in Mobutu Seke Soso’s Zaire, where the ruling elite oppress and extort the majority of citizens while expressing preferential treatment for a specific sect or clan.

  7. Failed states can often be identified by weak infrastructure. As the rulers or ruling class becomes more and more corrupt, there are often fewer capital resources available for road crews, equipment and raw materials. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, refurbishing navigational aids along aerial waterways was not prioritized.

  8. In order to have a successful economy, a country must have a strong, centralized nation-state. Without this, it becomes exceedingly difficult to provide law and order as mechanisms to solve disputes and provide basic public goods. Somalia exemplifies this failure to exercise control over territories beyond its capital. This can be attributed to the traditional social structure in Somalia where clans made decisions according to the adult males as opposed to adhering to a central authority figure. This persisted in the colonial era and into the modern day with Mohammed Siad Barre’s dictatorship failing to change it.

  9. An economy based on extreme extraction breeds political instability as it incentivizes the non-elites to depose the ruling class and take over. In Sierra Leone, Siaka Stevens and his All People’s Congress (APC) party ran the country from 1967 to 1985 as a dictatorship until he handed control to his protege Joseph Momoh. This invited would-be strongmen such as Foday Sankoh to plunge the country into a vicious civil war in 1991. He was only interested in power in order to steal diamonds. The government revenue went from 15 percent of national income to essentially zero in 1991.

  10. Corruption flourishes on a governmental, nationwide level. Examples include benefitting from anything that can be put to fake tender (medical supplies, bridges, roads, textbooks), wasteful construction projects and licenses for non-existent activities. The corrupt ruling elites mostly invest their ill-gotten money overseas, which worsens the economic situation domestically. Military officers too are guilty of profiting off these corrupt regimes.

In an earlier era where the world was less connected and globalized, it might have been possible to isolate the effects of a failed state from the others. However, in the connected state of today’s global economy and political system, the failures of one state poses grave threats to the security of others. These 10 facts about failed states shed a little more light on sign to look out for when identifying states that have failed or are going in that direction.

Maneesha Khalae

Photo: Flickr

ending modern slaverySlavery is not a widely accepted or legal practice nowadays, but it is far from extinct. In 2016, there were an estimated 40.3 million people trapped in modern slavery. This slavery can take the form of forced labor, domestic slavery and sexual exploitation among others with many of these slaves being young children. Although, sexual slavery is often what many people think of when they first hear the term “modern slavery,” nearly 25 million people have been exploited as slaves for forced labor.

This is an epidemic that can seem quite daunting at times but has gained more recognition in recent years. Now, nonprofits, businesses and governments around the world are working to end modern slavery. One nonprofit in particular has used technology to their advantage and, on July 30, launched an anti-slavery application for smartphones in The United Kingdom in the hopes of ending modern slavery.

Smartphones and Ending Modern Slavery

In 2016, The U.K. nonprofit, Unseen, started a nationwide Modern Slavery Helpline that individuals could call to report incidents that looked like slavery. This hotline saw a large increase in usage at the beginning of 2018 with an 80 percent increase in reports. In order to make reporting easier and raise awareness for this problem, Unseen developed a new smartphone app.

The app has easy-to-read guides on identifying the signs of modern slavery and is an easier version of their confidential hotline. It features graphics showing what slavery can look like in different contexts, such as in manufacturing, construction, agriculture or domestic work. The guides are even detailed enough to show users different physical signs or movements that may indicate slavery.

The nonprofit recognized that traffickers and pimps are using technology and all the resources available to them to recruit, exploit and control their slaves. In order to fight traffickers and slavery, this organization created its own app to be innovative in its solutions to fighting this problem, believing it is an important step in ending modern slavery.

As of right now, arrests solely based on the hotline have been low, but different agencies in The U.K. are embracing the app and will hopefully begin to rely on it more. Currently, the app is only available in The U.K., but slavery is a widespread problem that has a deep tie to global poverty.

The Tie Between Poverty and Slavery

There are many factors contributing to modern slavery, but one of the most prominent is poverty. The International Labour Organization (ILO) argues that poverty and income shocks are key to understanding forced labor and slavery.

The ILO articulates that people living in poverty are more likely to borrow money, which can make them vulnerable to exploitation.  When a family experiences extreme poverty they are more likely to rely on a third party for emergency funds. Oftentimes, due to a lack of financial resources, this dependence ends up being on a recruiter or trafficker and leads to manipulation, slavery and exploitation. Slavery traps its victims in a tragic cycle where they end up impoverished with little escape.

Other factors that The ILO highlights are education and illiteracy, which are often more common in impoverished societies. Often people who are less educated end up working in manual labor where forced labor and slavery is more common. It is also more challenging for these people to gain an understanding of their rights and protections against slavery or how to exercise these rights to defend themselves.

Although there is much progress to be made in ending modern slavery, innovative nonprofits like Unseen are creatively helping solve this problem and will hopefully inspire others to do the same. Being able to safely report incidents of slavery is the first step to ending this horrible exploitation.

Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

Common Types of Human Trafficking
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines human trafficking as “the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them.” Sometimes victims are taken from their home countries, other times they are kidnapped abroad. Nevertheless, thousands of victims in almost every country in the world are impacted by this human rights violation.

Act, Means and Purpose

The common types of human trafficking can occur in a multitude of ways. The UNODC outlines three clear elements that define trafficking: the act, means and purpose. The act can include the recruitment process, kidnapping, or possible transfer and transportation of the victim. The means refer to how the act of trafficking gets done. The means could be defined as the kidnapping, coercion, fraud, or force to control the victim. Lastly, the purpose is the reason for the act, which in the case of trafficking is exploitation. Exploitation could consist of sexual abuse, forced labor, removal of organs or slavery. Human trafficking can occur in many variations, but the most common types of human trafficking are debt bondage, forced labor and sex trafficking.

Debt Bondage

The most frequently used strategy to employ against victims of human trafficking is debt bondage. It is used against victims of labor and sex trafficking. Specifically, agricultural workers are frequently exploited in this manner, as they are led to migrant labor camps and kept from contact with the outside world. Eliminating their debt is impossible for these workers, as prices for everything cost more and more money. Their initial debt, rent, food and even the tools they work with, are rigged in a way to never be compensated by their wages. Occasionally, victims are “fined,” so that they remain in debt. Victims often have very few resources to turn to, as many are illiterate and impoverished. In poor countries, children are sometimes sold into bondage to eliminate debt.

Forced Labor

Forced labor, or labor trafficking, is a type of modern slavery. Over 14.2 million people across the globe are victims of this, one of the most common types of human trafficking. Victims are lured in the prospects of high-paying jobs and life-altering opportunities. The reality for labor trafficked victims is far different from what they were promised. With little to no payments, their supposed “employers” assert both psychological and physical control over victims. Seizure of passports and money, physical abuse and countless other methods are used to give victims no other choice than to continue working in these terrible conditions.

Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking, as defined by the Shared Hope International, “occurs when someone uses force, fraud or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial sex act.” A commercial sex act is considered to be pornography, sexual performance, or prostitution. The exchange can be done monetarily or to fulfill basic human needs such as food and shelter. As one of the most common types of human trafficking, sex trafficking is thriving because there is such a large demand for these type of services. Traffickers utilize several strategies to lure in the victims, as internet and social media being one of the most frequently used ones. The most common age range of victims of human sex trafficking is 14 to 16. Victims are encouraged by the false hopes of adventure, protection, opportunity and love.

These common types of human trafficking occur all over the world, but can be stopped. Organizations throughout the globe are fighting to stop these human rights violations. Shared Hope International, for instance, works as an advocacy organization to train professionals to spot the signs of human trafficking.

Furthermore, they work with the governments to strengthen laws against traffickers and protect victims. United Way, a group working to end modern slavery, has a set of six steps everyone can take to eliminate this global phenomenon.

Raising awareness, learning the signs, volunteering and knowing where your everyday products come from are simple steps that everyone can take to help end human trafficking.

–  Stefanie Babb
Photo: Flickr

Types of Slavery
Slavery is a term that most Americans are familiar with. From history classes to pop culture, the word has permeated the collective consciousness. UNESCO states that slavery is “identified by an element of ownership or control over another’s life, coercion and the restriction of movement and by the fact that someone is not free to leave.” Through this definition, the U.N. declared in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights that every type of slavery is prohibited. Though it has been 70 years since this universal identification of slavery as an affront to human rights, the business of many types of slavery persists.

While exact numbers are difficult to establish, a recent estimate by the International Labor Organization claims that there are around 40 million people living in modern slavery. One of the many reasons that the number of people living in slavery is hard to identify is due to the many types of slavery that are used to coerce and control millions of people. To understand the global issue of slavery, this breakdown defines of the types of slavery as identified by the U.S. Department of State.

Types of Slavery

  1. Sex Trafficking
    The manipulation, coercion, or control of an adult engaging in a commercial sex act. The adult may consent to prostitution but be held in the exchange unwillingly due to unlawful debts. Any physical or psychological manipulation or force used to retain the individual is illegal and is considered trafficking.
  2. Child Sex Trafficking
    The child performs a commercial sex act after being recruited, sheltered, transported or sold. In this type of slavery, the child cannot consent. All forms of commercial sexual acts performed by children are illegal. These victims are especially vulnerable and often face long-term health issues.
  3. Forced Labor
    The physical or psychological manipulation or coercion to force a person to work. The employee may originally consent to work, but once force is used to compel the victim to work, it is considered trafficking and is illegal. Migrants and women are particularly vulnerable to forced labor.
  4. Forced Child Labor
    Some labor is permissible for children to perform, but there may be symptoms of abuse and trafficking if the child’s wages are redirected away from the child or his/her family. There are specific strategies outlined by the State Department to combat this unique problem.
  5. Bonded Labor or Debt Bondage
    The coercion of a person to work in order to pay off incurred debt. This debt may be from former employment or through ancestral debts. The ancestral form of debt bondage slavery seems to be most prevalent in South Asia.
  6. Domestic Servitude
    Individuals whose workplace is a private residence and feel as though they cannot leave; they may also be abused. These individuals lack common benefits including, but not limited to, days off, appropriate compensation and freedom from abuse and violence.
  7. Unlawful Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers
    The coercion or manipulation of children to act as combatants. The traffickers could be individuals, rebel groups, paramilitary groups or governments.

There are many organizations that fight trafficking. There are also several hotlines to report suspicious behavior that may indicate trafficking. Though the issue is global, fighting modern slavery begins at home. There are opportunities to become involved at the regional, national and international levels. As Congress navigates trafficking issues and seeks to expand protections in order to prevent human trafficking, understanding and showing support for the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the types of slavery impacting millions of people is one way of supporting those impacted by trafficking.

– M. Shea Lamanna
Photo: Flickr

The Fight for Freedom: Most Common Types of Human TraffickingThe prevalence of human trafficking is a present-day example of the existence of slavery. This global human rights issue is a billion-dollar crime industry, affecting millions of individuals in almost every nation in the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion… for the purpose of exploitation.”

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of exploitation that has three elements: the act, the means and the purpose. The act refers to the transfer or recruitment of persons. The means is how trafficking is done, which includes the threat, force or deception used to control victims. The purpose of exploitation includes sex, labor, slavery or the removal of organs. According to the Human Rights Commission, the most common types of human trafficking are sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage.

Common Types of Human Trafficking

Sex trafficking refers to the forced participation of commercial sex acts; women and children are the most vulnerable to this type of human trafficking. This type of trafficking forms a significant portion of the transnational present-day slavery. The commercial sex trade exploits one million children a year. Women and young girls make up 80 percent of the trafficked victims.

Forced labor, or involuntary servitude, is where individuals provide labor through coercion, force or fraudulent means. According to the 2017 Estimates of Modern Slavery, there are 24.9 million victims of forced labor. Millions of enslaved individuals worldwide produce goods in various supply chains under violence and threat. These include the agricultural, mineral, construction and textile industries.

Debt bondage is also one of the most common types of human trafficking in which a person forcibly works in order to pay a debt. Migrant laborers are particularly vulnerable to this form of trafficking, as many regions have systematic schemes designed to exploit workers. Debt bondage involves a debt that cannot be paid off within a reasonable time frame. Also known as debt slavery, the period of debt strips the victim of basic freedom. A cycle of debt is then created and maintained through the abuse of contracts, increasing debt interest, increasing living expenses and higher labor expectations.

Response to the Most Common Types of Human Trafficking

Despite the large number of individuals that have fallen victim to human trafficking, there are many organizations that dedicate their efforts to address human trafficking issues. UNODC has established a comprehensive approach to tackle human trafficking. The strategy can be best viewed as three interdependent components which include: raising awareness, capacity building and maintaining strong partnerships.

Additionally, Polaris is a leading organization committed to the worldwide battle to end modern slavery. The organization’s model places an emphasis on the victims of human trafficking. Polaris provides assistance in the restoration of the victim’s freedom, helping survivors reintegrate back into society.

In other parts of the world, nonprofits continue to investigate core issues, such as the conditions that increase the vulnerability to human trafficking. The Freedom Project is an Australian movement that seeks to empower communities and focus on the prevention of human trafficking.

In response to these alarming human trafficking statistics, global movements dedicated to the eradication of modern slavery are leading the way to freedom.

– Dane de Leon

Photo: Flickr

North Korea
Currently ruled by Kim Jong-Un and the Worker’s Party of Korea, North Korea is one of the most oppressive countries in the world. Its leaders and government are adamant about isolating the country to ensure loyalty to North Korea and its communist way of life. In order to do this, many human rights are stripped from individuals living there. Although it is difficult to understand everything about the country given the secrecy and protection that is enforced, there are certain things about human rights in North Korea that have been uncovered.

 

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in North Korea.

  1. Unauthorized access to media is prohibited, such as non-state radio, newspapers or unapproved TV broadcasts. North Koreans face severe punishments if they are found accessing such material.
  2. A large majority of North Koreans are forced to participate in unpaid labor at some point in their lives. The government does this to maintain control of its people as well as sustain the economy. In 2014, a former teacher from North Korea escaped and told officials that his school forced students, aging from 10 to 16, to work every day to produce funds to uphold the school, make a profit and pay government officials.
  3. Citizens of North Korea are divided into three classes based on their loyalty to their “Dear Leader.” The highest class is “core,” followed by “wavering” and ending with “hostile.” The “core” is filled with the most dedicated citizens, whereas the “hostile” contains members of minority faiths, in addition to descendants of alleged enemies of the state. The majority of the wealth resides among the “core,” while the “hostile” group is often denied employment and is even subjected to starvation.
  4. Citizens of North Korea are often forced to spy on one another, including family members, and they must report any disloyalty they find. The government enforces this through what is called the Ministry of People’s Security. If someone is heard being at all critical toward the government, they will likely be reduced to a lower loyalty group rating, and could be tortured, imprisoned in a concentration camp or possibly even executed.
  5. Traveling is heavily restricted in North Korea. Citizens caught trying to flee or travel outside of the country may be given the death penalty.
  6. Except among the ruling class, malnutrition is almost universal because of the restrictions on the lower class. The average seven-year-old in North Korea is about eight inches shorter than the average seven-year-old in South Korea.
  7. North Korea has 10 active concentration camps that people can be placed into at any time for any crime deemed severe enough. It is believed that between 200,000 to 250,000 prisoners currently reside within them. The conditions in the camps are horrific and have an estimated annual casualty rate of 25 percent.
  8. The government of North Korea has no due process system, which means it can torture, imprison and execute prisoners whenever it believes it is necessary.
  9. Anyone who is participating in religious activities that are outside of the state’s permission will have similar consequences to those mentioned above, including imprisonment, torture or execution.
  10. The North Korean regime attempts to keep disabled citizens hidden from the majority of the population, and they are banned from the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang. Some disabled children are even killed after birth.

In consideration of these facts about human rights in North Korea, it is clear that rights of the citizens are extremely limited. However, although human rights in North Korea may be lacking, there has been some improvement. North Korea’s leadership has ongoing engagement with U.N. human rights treaty bodies. These include the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women.

Committees like these and other organizations are constantly working to spread awareness and improve human rights conditions within North Korea. Further progress is needed in order to dramatically change living conditions in the country, but it is fortunate that measures are already being taken to improve the rights of North Koreans.

– McCall Robison

Photo: Flickr

Citizens Fleeing Eritrea Because of Poverty and Forced Labor
Since 2012, one in every 50 Eritreans (nearly twice the ratio of Syrians fleeing from civil war) has sought asylum in Europe. According to the U.N., 5,000 Eritrean men and boys are leaving their families and fleeing Eritrea each month.

The U.N. estimates that 400 thousand Eritreans, or nine percent of the population, have fled in recent years. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nearly one-quarter of the 132 thousand migrants arriving in Italy between January and September of 2015 were Eritreans.

Poverty in Eritrea is extreme. The CIA World Factbook reports the nation’s GDP purchasing power as $8.7 billion, ranking Eritrea 162nd in the world. Unemployment in the country is estimated at just 8.6 percent, but the poverty rate is estimated at 50 percent. More specific numbers are nearly impossible to acquire due to Eritrea’s secretive nature.

Why are people fleeing Eritrea? In June 2015, the UNHCR released a 500-page report detailing the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations going on in Eritrea, violations that have created a climate of fear in which dissent is stifled. The report found that a large proportion of the population was being subjected to forced labor and imprisonment.

According to the report, the people of Eritrea are not ruled by law, but by fear. The Eritrean government denied repeated requests by the commission for information and access to the country. To gain insight into the situation, the commission conducted 550 confidential interviews with Eritrean witnesses in eight countries and received an additional 160 written submissions.

Conscription for 18 months is required of each Eritrean adult but is often extended indefinitely and carried out for years in harsh and inhumane conditions. Thousands of conscripts are subjected to forced labor that effectively abuses, exploits and enslaves them.

According to the UNHCR’s report, women conscripts are at extreme risk for sexual violence during national service. All sectors of the economy rely on forced service, and all Eritreans are likely to be subject to it at some point during their lives. The commission concluded that, “forced labor in this context is a practice similar to slavery in its effects and, as such, is prohibited under international human rights law.”

Mandatory conscription has not remedied poverty in Eretria. Instead, it has exacerbated it. Commission chair Sheila B. Keethrauth urged commitment from the international community to end the climate of fear in Eritrea.

“Rule by fear — fear of indefinite conscription, of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, of torture and other human rights violations — must end,” said Keethrauth.

Aaron Parr

Photo: Flickr

oil_states
If you go abroad to work but get your passport taken from you upon arrival, receive minimal pay and essentially have no rights, is it still a job? Or is it beginning to resemble something more sinister?

Some states in the Middle East, such as Qatar, UAE and Saudia Arabia, have recently received exposure for their terrible treatment of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers coming from a variety of places in Asia and Africa. The exploitation of the workers is a return to conditions that have supposedly been outlawed internationally; conditions seem to fall on the spectrum of labor closer to the end labeled “slavery.”

Often times, these exploited workers actually pay thousands of dollars to “recruitment agencies” that then send them to states like Qatar with a job lined up. Upon arrival, their passports are taken from them, essentially prohibiting them from escaping what they will be exposed to next. The Kafala system ensures that these workers stay for at least two years and blocks overseas competition from encroaching upon this market.

Once these workers arrive, they are placed in labor camps, where sanitation is not part of their reality and overcrowding is the norm. This is the new face of slavery. It may be slightly less blatant, but it is essentially the same.

These poor migrant workers who come seeking good occupations are met with brutal conditions and hostility. The International Labor Organization estimates that 600,000 people have been subjected to these “forced labor” practices in the Middle East.

Around the world, the UAE and other nations that use cheap labor are becoming increasingly well known for their incredibly fast building times and the proliferation of skylines gleaming with luxurious towers, all built by these modern-day slaves. Grabbing headlines, Qatar has been in the spotlight for using migrant workers to build the massive amount of infrastructure needed to handle the mega-event of the World Cup. In addition to the horrid conditions they impose on these laborers, it is estimated that the death toll in the construction of World Cup infrastructure leading up to the event has exceeded 1,200 – a figure that outstrips all previous World Cup events. The massive loss of life in preparing for the event can be taken as a sign of the value that Qatar places on its migrant workers: they are expendable.

This system of forced labor is systematic in the Middle Eastern countries that take advantage of it. The backlash has not been as strong as it should be. It is quite possible that there has been a lack of serious backlash and serious reform due to the geopolitical positions of these oil states. Oil is a vital resource in the 21st century, and human rights are apparently not quite as high on the list of priorities.

The gross lack of appreciation of human lives and human rights in the states that make use of these modern-day slaves is enormous. The exploitation of workers who simply want to provide for their families is deplorable at best. As of 2014, some suspect that as many as 4,000 migrant workers may lose their lives in order to prepare Qatar for the World Cup.

– Martin Yim

Sources: The Economist, CNN, BBC 1, BBC 2
Photo: The Economist

Labor_Trafficking
Over 35 percent of the global population is living on less than $2 a day. This makes 2.5 billion people worldwide vulnerable to becoming trafficking victims.

There are an estimated 14.2 million people who are trapped in what is considered forced labor. Common industries for forced labor include agriculture, domestic work, construction and manufacturing. An estimated $9 billion is annually generated from forced labor activity in agriculture and forestry work alone. Additionally, an estimated $34 billion has been made in industries such as construction, mining and manufacturing. According to the State Department, the average labor trafficker makes $4,000 per victim annually.

Anyone can become a victim of labor trafficking, no matter his or her gender, age or ethnicity. There are victims in every country, including the United States. Those targeted in the U.S. tend to be vulnerable populations, most commonly recruited from homeless shelters. Unskilled labor, a lack of educational opportunities and high rates of illiteracy are common among trafficked victims. Many factors can contribute to an individual being targeted for labor trafficking, but poverty remains at the top of the list.

People living in extreme poverty, within communities with limited access to resources and opportunities, make for easy targets for traffickers. Preying on vulnerable individuals, labor traffickers lure people into the workforce by providing the victim ways to “escape” his or her impoverished life. The fraudulent promises include job training, education and other false development possibilities. Some victims, with hopes of helping their families, eagerly explore the chance for a better life.

For victims of labor trafficking, pay is nil or non-existent. The employers of forced labor use physical and psychological violence to control their victims. Often, debt bondage becomes an unbreakable contract for victims. Occasionally, it is the parents’ or family’s debt that leads to children being sold as a method of payment for the debt. In such cases, impoverished parents sometimes send their children with a person they know and trust in exchange for money, believing in the professed promise of a better life for their child.

In Asia, the labor-related trafficking trade is said to be the most prevalent, valued at $51.8 million annually. The abundance is attributable to the profit that is generated from victims working in developed countries.

Poverty is a main catalyst and explanation for the large numbers of trafficked victims. The United States and other Western countries need to ensure their businesses are not utilizing trafficked victims. Policy changes, awareness and advocacy are needed. Labor trafficking will continue unless a united voice against the exploitation of the poor gains more momentum.

– Erika Wright

Sources: Polaris Project, U.S. Department of State
Photo: Flickr