The Issue Of Modern Slavery


Erasing slavery in the modern age is becoming extensively difficult especially as effective measures are failing to tackle the issue of exploiting people. Modern slavery is such an extensive issue as it incorporates a range of different forms such as human trafficking, sex trafficking and forced child labour. Recent investigations into modern slavery have uncovered numerous challenges that the international community must confront. For example, an ABC investigation has detailed the recent deportation of Chinese women which suggested they were young Chinese women brought to Fiji as sex workers. According to Fiona David, an executive at the Walk Free Foundation, an anti-slavery organization based in Australia, modern slavery is a substantial challenge in the Asia-Pacific region, and until governments crackdown against the above issues, more of it will continue to occur in this region.

Clearly a global issue that requires transnational measures, modern slavery severely impacts vulnerable communities such as migrants, in fact footage has emerged of sub-Saharan migrants being sold at slave markets in Libya. This week, CNN released footage that appears to demonstrate an auction of young men as farm workers, however the International Organization for Migration (IOM) were first aware of the horrific situation in April. The IOM, in a press release on 4 April, reported slave markets operating on North African migrant routes that torment hundreds of young African men bound for Libya; as documented by IOM staff in Niger and Libya. Modern Slavery is evidently occurring around the world and its frequency is alarming, in fact the Global Slavery Index estimates “that there are 45.8 million people in modern slavery.” The Global Slavery Index publishes alarming facts and an ABC news article reported on such startling facts by stating “the index, by human rights group Walk Free Foundation, increased its estimate of people born into servitude, trafficked for sex work, or trapped in debt bondage or forced labour to 45.8 million from 35.8 million in 2014.”

The issue of modern slavery in the Asia-Pacific region is illustrated through the Global Slavery index as it found that two-thirds of the 45 million people living as modern slaves are reported in the Asia-Pacific region. The substantial challenge of erasing slavery in the Asia-Pacific area requires the attention of the Australian community/government especially as there are some examples of labour-hire companies that bring people from countries like Indonesia that are in vulnerable situations with the promise of work. However after arriving, their passports are generally confiscated by their employer and they’re paid a tiny amount of what they were guaranteed; as reported by Edward Santow, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner. Slavery in the form of forced labour is a significant problem as it can be buried deep inside multinational supply chains. Furthermore, in an article published by ABC news, Edward Santow illustrates the fact that Australia is not completely immune to this problem of modern slavery as it is “estimated that more than 4,300 people are living in modern slavery in Australia today.”

In targeting this problem, the Australian Government has committed to establishing a law that tackles contemporary slavery forms and is considering implementing a requirement for big companies to inspect and report on modern slavery in their supply chains. Co-operation between the business community and the government is a vital act as it can ensure measures like the one stated above are being implemented effectively. Nations like Australia, that possess the sufficient resources to politically and adequately apply measures, should be able to enforce legislation to combat the issue of modern slavery however there are extensive problems for developing countries to enforce such legislation or measures. In the report published by the global slavery index, they attempted to answer the question of how are governments tackling modern slavery? They concluded that governments taking the least action are “Iran, Equatorial Guinea, Hong Kong, Central African Republic, Papua New Guinea, Guinea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.” Nations like Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia were not included in their assessment of government responses due to the ongoing conflict and extreme disruption to their government function. Key factors like political instability, displacement, internal conflict and humanitarian crises are evident in such nations like South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and thus, these nations do not possess the capability to protect their vulnerable communities from modern slavery.

The figures surrounding modern slavery are alarming for example the International Labour Organization estimates that the international modern slavery trade is worth $150 billion USD. However, there are projects being implemented with the aim of combatting these complex crimes. Firstly, the United Kingdom government has a two-year multilateral project that aims to assist Commonwealth legislatures in striving towards tackling modern slavery. The commonwealth parliamentary association U.K. states that “the project aims to encourage and facilitate a greater understanding of the national and international benefits of introducing modern slavery legislation through highlighting the value and subsequent lessons learnt from the passing of the U.K. Modern Slavery Act 2015.” Sharing goals and proposing measures between countries is certainly a good step towards understanding how we can combat such contemporary slavery problems. Moreover, another modern slavery project is evident in the United States. Researchers and scholars at the Loyola University, New Orleans operate the modern slavery research project that addresses human trafficking not only domestically but also internationally. The project aims to “engage in a hands-on approach to research that responds to the community, involves stakeholders in the process, and provides accessible, data-driven research to all those engaged in the effort to prevent modern slavery and aid survivors of trafficking.”

Evidently, projects are being implemented with the aim of combatting modern slavery however it is an international problem that requires the participation and co-operation of all nations. The alarming figures surrounding modern slavery suggest that co-operation between nations is needed more than ever to implement essential trans-national measures that target all forms of modern slavery. In this situation, businesses also have a role to play in addressing a more modern form of slavery, however developing countries lack the resources needed to institute measures that target modern slavery. Many issues like migration, displacement and internal conflict can contribute to modern slavery and as these issues continue to occur, the alarming figures of modern slavery may rise. Addressing such a complex problem may be very difficult for nations, however it is essential for nations to enforce some sort of legislation, for example earlier this year India revealed a draft of its first complete anti-human trafficking law that would help assist and treat survivors. Immense steps like India’s legislation are required immediately in order to fight the issue of modern slavery.