My home country Eritrea is ranked the world’s second country in terms of the high prevalence of modern slavery.
Modern slavery is the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of children, women or men through the use of force, coercion, abuse of vulnerability, deception or other means for the purpose of exploitation. It’s highly repressive regime imposes forced labour on a state level forcing its citizens to participate in agriculture or construction world for purposes of economic development, young military conscripts are forced to perform work that is not of military nature, communities are forced to perform communal services imposed on them that do not have any benefits for the community as a whole and lastly prisoners forced to world against their will.
The image below was taken at the Bisha mine in Eritrea, which is majority-owned by Nevus Resources Ltd – a Canadian Mining company listed on the Toronto Stock exchange which operates the mine and subcontracts the Eritrean state-run company Segen Construction Company that makes extensive use of military conscripts’ labour from the national service program. The company extracts zinc, gold and copper which are minerals used for the production of batteries, paint, jewellery, aerospace, computers, motors, antimicrobials, etc.
In broader terms, the minerals that men, women and children have been made to extract from mines find their way into cosmetics, electronics and among many other various products that we consume posing a serious concern for our consumption habits. Is the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the gadgets we use daily ethically produced and modern slavery free?
Furthermore, people escape my country on a daily basis and find themselves re-enslaved in other African countries or exploited once they reach Europe in the search for safety. Eritreans escape the country on a daily basis by taking the dangerous journey across the Sahara Desert to reach Libya which is the main transit point for refugees and migrants to reach Europe by sea. Unfortunately, some find themselves re-enslaved in the Libyan slave market where they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded. This image from January 27 2018, portrays a group of young Eritrean women that found themselves trapped in this situation and one of the victims spoke up saying: “It’s ok if I die in the sea. It’s better than the hell I saw in Libya and the hell awaiting me in Eritrea if I return!”. However, even the ones that arrive in Europe in the search for safety they find themselves being exploited.
At this moment in time it is believed that there are approximately 40.3 million men, women and children that are victims of modern slavery, 24.9 million of which are in forced labour, 15.4 million are living in forced marriage and 4.8 million in forced exploitation. In regional terms according to ILO estimates 75% of the victims are in the Asia-Pacific region in countries like India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan most of which are in bonded labour; and around 4% are in developed countries. For example, according to the NCA (National Crime Agency) statistics, 78% of labour trafficking victims in the UK in 2014 were European Economic Area nationals, most of which were Romanians forced into sexual exploitation.
Modern slavery is a very complex, grave and widespread global issue present in both developed and developing countries. It is manifested in different forms that are: forced labour, debt bondage, human trafficking, decent base slavery, child slavery, forced and early marriage. It is of vital importance that we acknowledge the gravity of modern slavery and the necessity to eradicate it. Although the signs of various types of slavery and exploitation are often hidden, victims can be of any age, gender, ethnicity or nationality. So, what can we do on an individual and collective scale to end this unnecessary suffering?
In order to eradicate modern slavery, we have to acknowledge the value in each person; and recognise that refugees could have been trafficked, and/or victims and survivors of modern slavery. As citizens of this world, we need to go beyond labels and nurture a real sense of solidarity through widespread cooperation among authorities and the community as a whole. Each individual especially young people can make a difference starting from this instance by speaking up, writing, tweeting and encouraging friends to be involved in order to raise awareness and by looking out for indicators that are listed in the image below to report cases of modern slavery.
Start your journey of making a difference and eradicating modern slavery today by questioning whether the products you purchase are ethically produced and if the materials used to produce them are ethically sourced as well.
This article was written by Soyan Daniel.