How can there still be 30m people living as slaves in 2013?

A new report reveals the extent of modern slavery worldwide, and finds that India has the highest number of enslaved people at 1.2m.

Globally 29.8 million people live in modern slavery, according to a new report called the Global Slavery Index released today by the Walk Free Foundation. The country with the highest number of enslaved people is India, with over 1.2 million, followed by China, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia. However, Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, India and Nepal have the highest rates of modern slavery.

Nick Grono, the CEO of the Walk Free Foundation said that the report’s authors “were not particularly surprised by the findings, though of course they make for disturbing reading" and that they wanted to highlight the scale of the problem globally.

The UK and Ireland ranked as the countries with the lowest proportion of people in slavery. The report estimates that between 4,200-4,600 people are enslaved in the UK and 300-340 in Ireland.

The Global Slavery Index, which covers slavery in 162 countries, defines slavery to include forced labour, forced marriage, debt bondage and bonded labour and human trafficking. It has found that the vast majority of enslaved people are in Asia (home to 29.8% of the 29.8m in modern slavery), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (16%), while Europe has the lowest number (1.8%). It argues that internationally, high levels of corruption and poverty, and low levels of human development all correlate with higher rates of poverty.

Mauritania has the highest proportion of people in slavery of any country in the world, estimated at 20%. Mauritanian society practices chattel slavery along ethnic lines, where masters have full control over adults and children in slavery, as well as their descendents. There are also incidences of forced marriage, and of children in religious schools being forced to go begging.

In India, the country with the highest number of people in slavery, this has taken varied forms from child labour and bonded labour, to commercial sexual exploitation and forced and servile marriage. The reports authors suggest that both widespread poverty (32.7% of Indians live on less than $1.25 a day) and the caste system have contributed to India’s appalling record.

Although the index compares the UK favourably to other countries, modern slavery and forced labour, particularly for those trafficked into the country, is still a big problem, as recent Sunday Times investigations have demonstrated. The reports authors acknowledge that because the UK lacks an official data capture mechanism on the subject, obtaining figures were hard (although the lack of data is a problem everywhere.)

It singles out Vietnamese gangs forcing children and young adults to work on cannabis farms, as well as forced labour in factories, the food industry, construction and in nail salons. Only 10% of police officers have undergone training in modern slavery, and the report flagged up the need to extend the reach of anti-slavery education campaigns currently running at ports and borders.

The report acknowledges that it is difficult to collect statistics on slavery, because it is usually illegal and hidden from national governments, but it hopes that countries will agree to work with the Walk Free Foundation to improve reporting.

“We are hoping that countries engage with, and respond to these findings. We expect that many countries will challenge these findings, and we welcome that. To any country that challenges our findings we will say - please work with us to do a much more rigorous assessment in your country of the state of modern slavery. The most effective way to do that is to work with us to conduct a random sample survey of your population to get a far more accurate measure of the scale of the problem,” Grono said.
 

Shackles which were used to tether slaves on display at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. Photo:Getty.

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

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The French terror attack could benefit Marine Le Pen

A run-off between Le Pen and a scandal-ridden François Fillon suddenly looks worryingly plausible.

Good morning. Here in Britain, the election campaign rumbles on, but has been thrown into sharp relief by a terrorist attack which killed a policeman and left two injured, on Champs-Élysées, for which Islamic State have claimed responsibility. The attacker was shot by police.

The major presidential campaigns have suspended their campaigns for a day as a mark of respect. But inevitably, the question will be asked: what impact will this have on the campaign?

A consistent pattern of French politics in recent times has been that high-profile acts of criminality have boosted Marine Le Pen by a few points in the polls. That goes not only for terror attacks by jihadists but terror attacks by far-right activists, too, as well as heists and riots.

The big question is whether those jumps are caused by differential abstention in polling respondents - that is, a high-profile crime occurs, National Front supporters get excited and the rest decline to answer polls - or if the effect has real world implications.

If the latter is the case, that means that Le Pen's recent slide in the polls may be reversed when France votes in the first round on Sunday, getting her through to the run-off.

But the more important thing may be what it does to the identity of her rival. François Fillon, of the mainstream right, has also tended to benefit in the polls after these incidents. That Closer is reporting that he had an affair with an aide may finally dent his support with conservative Catholics, whose votes are keeping him in contention.

But if not, a run-off between Marine Le Pen and a scandal-ridden François Fillon - the weakest opponent of the three she could face according to the polls - suddenly looks worryingly plausible.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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