October 19, 2013

Today’s slaves

Over 29 million people are living in slavery in the world today, says the Walk Free Foundation. Most of them in India (14 million) and China (2.9 Million). But Countries of the first world like the UK or are not free of modern forms of slavery above all affecting to foreign citizens forced into sex work, domestic servitude or coerced criminality.

According to the global slavery index elaborated by the Foundation, Mauritania is ranked first, with the highest estimated proportion of its population enslaved of any country in the world.  The West African country, with its deeply entrenched system of hereditary slavery, is thought to have an estimated 150,000 slaves in a population of only 3.8 million. Haiti, a Caribbean nation where child slavery is also widespread, is in second place, with Pakistan one place below, said the Walk Free Foundation in a press release.

India has the highest number of people enslaved in absolute terms, with approximately 14 million people in modern slavery – almost half of the total number worldwide. China follows, with an estimated 2,900 000 enslaved, and Pakistan comes in third with an estimate of over two million in modern slavery. Nigeria,EthiopiaRussiaThailandDemocratic Republic of CongoMyanmar and Bangladesh make up the top ten by absolute numbers. Taken together, these countries account for more than 22 million of the 29.8 million people enslaved.

While Asia and Africa are home to the vast majority of modern slaves, no continent is free from modern slavery. Globally, IcelandIreland and the UK are tied with the lowest rankings in the Index. However, it is estimated that there are as many as four thousand people enslaved in the UK (number 160 in the ranking of 162 countries) and more could be done to help them and prevent others suffering their fate.

According to the data published in the Foundation website Spain is in the 147 position with an estimated 5,700-6,300 people living in a modern enslaving situations. The US appears in the 134 position with an estimate of 57,000-63,000 modern enslaved people.

Last September 24th Pope Francis talked about the modern slavery among migrants and refugees.

Particularly disturbing are those situations where migration is not only involuntary, but actually set in motion by various forms of human trafficking and enslavement. Nowadays, ‘slave labour’ is common coin! Yet despite the problems, risks and difficulties to be faced, great numbers of migrants and refugees continue to be inspired by confidence and hope; in their hearts they long for a better future, not only for themselves but for their families and those closest to them. (…)

Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children women and men“Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more. The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking. Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history. As the Church accompanies migrants and refugees on their journey, she seeks to understand the causes of migration, but she also works to overcome its negative effects, and to maximize its positive influence on the communities of origin, transit and destination.

“While encouraging the development of a better world, we cannot remain silent about the scandal of poverty in its various forms. Violence, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, restrictive approaches to fundamental freedoms, whether of individuals or of groups: these are some of the chief elements of poverty which need to be overcome. Often these are precisely the elements which mark migratory movements, thus linking migration to poverty. Fleeing from situations of extreme poverty or persecution in the hope of a better future, or simply to save their own lives, millions of persons choose to migrate. Despite their hopes and expectations, they often encounter mistrust, rejection and exclusion, to say nothing of tragedies and disasters which offend their human dignity.

Despite their hopes and expectations, they often encounter mistrust, rejection and exclusion, to say nothing of tragedies and disasters which offend their human dignity“The reality of migration, given its new dimensions in our age of globalization, needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner; more than anything, this calls for international cooperation and a spirit of profound solidarity and compassion. Cooperation at different levels is critical, including the broad adoption of policies and rules aimed at protecting and promoting the human person. Pope Benedict XVI sketched the parameters of such policies, stating that they ‘should set out from close collaboration between the migrants’ countries of origin and their countries of destination; they should be accompanied by adequate international norms able to coordinate different legislative systems with a view to safeguarding the needs and rights of individual migrants and their families, and at the same time, those of the host countries’. Working together for a better world requires that countries help one another, in a spirit of willingness and trust, without raising insurmountable barriers. A good synergy can be a source of encouragement to government leaders as they confront socio-economic imbalances and an unregulated globalization, which are among some of the causes of migration movements in which individuals are more victims than protagonists. No country can single-handedly face the difficulties associated with this phenomenon, which is now so widespread that it affects every continent in the twofold movement of immigration and emigration.

“It must also be emphasized that such cooperation begins with the efforts of each country to create better economic and social conditions at home, so that emigration will not be the only option left for those who seek peace, justice, security and full respect of their human dignity. The creation of opportunities for employment in the local economies will also avoid the separation of families and ensure that individuals and groups enjoy conditions of stability and serenity.

A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter“Finally, in considering the situation of migrants and refugees, I would point to yet another element in building a better world, namely, the elimination of prejudices and presuppositions in the approach to migration. Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility. There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identity and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase. The communications media have a role of great responsibility in this regard: it is up to them, in fact, to break down stereotypes and to offer correct information in reporting the errors of a few as well as the honesty, rectitude and goodness of the majority. A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world. The communications media are themselves called to embrace this ‘conversion of attitudes’ and to promote this change in the way migrants and refugees are treated.

About Olga Brajnović

Journalist. In my fifties. I've worked for 26 years in a newspaper in Spain. I worked for two years as a stringer and correspondent in the US, and went as a special envoy to other places like the Balkans. Sea lover. Avid reader. Classic Music enthusiast.

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Africa, Americas, Asia, Ethics, Europe, Ideals, Justice, World and Politics

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