September 5, 2007

Slavery (and Emancipation) for the New Millennium

Children and adults alike throughout the world are kidnapped and trafficked out of their home countries, or leave home in search of a better life only to be forced into conditions akin to slavery.

In China, a major scandal erupted when the parents of 570 enslaved child workers started searching for their missing children, only to discover that they had been forced into heavy labor at brick kilns in Shanxi and Henan provinces.

The culprits were more than 60 officials, including policemen and Communist Party members, reports Agence France-Presse.

An op-ed in the Philippine Inquirer cites testimonial by an American medical technician working in Baghdad that he had witnessed the kidnapping and enslavement of 51 Filipinos.

Roy Mayberry told a U.S. Congressional committee that the workers had been hired by the First Kuwaiti Company to work in Dubai, only to learn, once they were on the airplane, that they were going to Iraq.

Upon arrival, they joined a group of Indians, Pakistanis and Africans in back-breaking labor in subhuman conditions, without safety equipment or breaks for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the American witness.

The committee took no action on the matter.

Hundreds of African children, some as young as ten, are brought over to the United Kingdom from countries like Nigeria every year, and are forced to work as prostitutes or domestic slaves, according to a human rights report in Britain.

Officials have long been aware of the problem, but have yet to prosecute a single trafficker, according to the report.

In Australia, several foreign workers died recently working in jobs they weren’t suited for, reports The Age.

The workers were hired under a special visa reserved for highly skilled workers, but once they arrived they were forced into harsh menial labor that resulted in fatal accidents.

Australian companies increasingly employ this scheme to attract foreigners for the jobs Australians won’t do.

On a positive note, Mauritania’s National Assembly voted unanimously to adopt a law criminalizing the country’s own practice of caste-based slavery last month, resulting in the emancipation of half a million slaves now emancipated.

Local advocacy groups are now calling for new rules to monitor and enforce the law, according to the United Nations news service.

They also want to give former slaves access to land and job training at welcome centers.

Sources:

“China busts child slavery gang”
Agence France-Presse, August 15, 2007

“Overseas Filipino slaves in Iraq”
Inquirer (Philippines), August 3, 2007

“Mauritania: New anti-slavery law not enough for real change, activists say”
IRIN (United Nations), August 24, 2007

“Foreign workers ‘enslaved'”
The Age (Australia), August 28, 2007

“Britain’s invisible labor force: African children”
Independent (U.K.), August 21, 2007

One thought on “Slavery (and Emancipation) for the New Millennium

  1. It is indeed regretable that the 3 workers died recently in Australia. However, perhaps the many hundreds of workers that die every year in the Middle East should also be given some consideration. The workers that are involved in 50 degree (oops sorry 49 degree heat as we know that they can cease work if it gets to 50 degrees and for some reason it never does) on construction sites. So if we are really concerned about inhumane conditions and slavery (condoned by the Philippines, Indian, Nepalese and Indian governments), maybe we should be looking at these areas.