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Report Says 46 Million Are Enslaved Worldwide

Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP
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Russell Crowe introduces third Global Slavery Index by Australian monitoring group

More than 150 years after Abraham Lincoln put an end to slavery in the United States, the number of people enslaved throughout the world is surging.

On Tuesday, Australian actor Russell Crowe introduced the third Global Slavery Index, reporting that almost 46 million people are living as slaves worldwide.

The index, by Australia-based human rights group Walk Free Foundation, finds that the greatest number of people in bondage are in India. The highest prevalence of slavery is in North Korea, it adds.

The estimate of 45.8 million, up sharply from 35.8 million in 2014, includes people born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, or trapped in debt bondage or forced labor. The nearly 30% increase was due to better data collection, said Andrew Forrest, founder of Walk Free. Forrest said, however, that he fears the situation was getting worse with global displacement and migration increasing vulnerability to all forms of slavery.

Reuters news service said that Forrest, an Australian mining billionaire and philanthropist, urged businesses to check their supply chains for worker exploitation, saying he found thousands of people trapped in slavery making goods for his company Fortescue Metals Group.

“But I’ve had some of some biggest entrepreneurs in the world look me in the eye and say I will not look for slavery in case I find it,” he said at the launch of the index in London.

Crowe, who played Roman emperor-turned-slave Maximus in the 2000 movie Gladiator, described the plight of people “in our communities who are stuck, utterly helpless and trapped in a cycle of despair and degradation with no choice and no hope.

“As an actor, my role is often to portray raw human emotion, but nothing compares with the people’s lives reflected in the report published today,” he said.

Reuters continued:

Incidences of slavery were found in all 167 countries in the index, with India home to the largest total number with an estimated 18.4 million slaves among its 1.3 billion population.

But Forrest said India deserved credit for starting to address this problem, with the government this week unveiling a draft of its first comprehensive anti-human trafficking law to treat survivors as victims rather than criminals.

North Korea ranked worst in terms of concentration with one in every 20 people – or 4.4 percent of its 25 million population – in slavery and its government doing the least to end this, with reports of state-sanctioned forced labor.

The 2016 index was based on interviews with about 42,000 people by pollster Gallup, conducted in 53 languages in 25 countries. The United Nations’ International Labor Organization estimates 21 million people globally are victims of forced labor but this does not take into account all forms of slavery.

Among other findings of the report are that North Korea, Iran, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and Hong Kong are the governments taking the least action to tackle slavery. The governments taking most action are the Netherlands, the United States, Great Britain, Sweden and Australia.

 

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