Slavery- What can the international community do?

It has been estimated by scholars, journalists and activists that the number of slaves in the world today ranges between 10 and 30 million people. An agency of the United Nations, The International Labour Organization, in 2005 stated that there was a minimum of 12.3 million slaves. In 1999, Kevin Bales, a sociologist and a consultant to the United Nations, estimated the number to be close to 27 million people.

There are many reasons why it is difficult to determine exactly how many slaves there are currently in the world. Unfortunately, they are essentially a “hidden population.” Although slavery is illegal in every country, slaves are not usually the people to come forward and identify themselves. Often they are in a country illegally and fear that if they come forward, they will be perceived as criminals, instead of as victims.

What can be done to encourage people who are victims of slavery to come forward? Can the international community do anything to insure that people who are victims of slavery and brought to foreign countries against their will are not prosecuted?

The challenges of counting a 'hidden population'

10 comments

  1. The problem with international legal issues such as slavery is that there is no international enforcement mechanism for those who violate international laws. Although the UN, for example, is an international legal body that aims to reduce human rights violations such as slavery, it cannot enforce an international legal norm in any country without that country’s consent. The only recourse a slave has in his or her country is to go to that country’s government and insist that action be taken to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, in some countries, the government is participating in the slave trade. In other cases, it is possible that those subjected to slavery do not know that they have rights that must be respected.

  2. I think the best way to reduce slavery and get people to come forward is to advertise it in many languages. Slaves may not speak the native language of the country and they may not know that slavery is in fact illegal and they are victims. Advertising on posters or flyers that there are people that will help them become free would help them know they will not have to navigate the process alone. And I also think it would be a good idea to guarantee that in exchange for their testimony about the existence of the slavery that they will not be prosecuted for being in the country illegally – one of the main concerns with coming forward. Getting greater knowledge out there about the laws and remedies would not fully get rid of slavery, but it will reduce it.

  3. I was shocked at the amount of slaves still in the world today; however, I can see why it is a difficult issue to remedy. Slaves will never come forward if they have a fear of prosecution, so it is up to the international community to come together and find a resolution. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a united outlet for these victims and may never be. It may be too difficult to get a unified system, especially when there is the risk that some countries may secretly support slavery. This does not seem to be an issue that will be resolved anytime soon.

  4. I do agree that it is quite impossible to have a uniform mechanism to battle the amount of slavery going on behind closed doors. However, I must add to example of why slaves being housed out of their home country do not come forward. I believe that each country’s immigration laws might add to the complex issues of why many of the slaves do not solicit for their freedom. If deployment is the only remedy for some of these slaves, then maybe the immigration laws too need a uniform mechanism to combat slavery. Now that this issue is called to our attention, we can’t be naive that slavery is ancient.

  5. I do agree that it is quite impossible to have a uniform mechanism to battle the amount of slavery going on behind closed doors. However, I must add to the example of why slaves being housed out of their home country do not come forward. I believe that each country’s immigration laws might add to the complex issues of why many of the slaves do not solicit for their freedom. If deployment is the only remedy for some of these slaves, then maybe the immigration laws too need a uniform mechanism to combat slavery. Now that this issue is called to our attention, we can’t be naive that slavery is ancient.

  6. This summer a friend of mine brought to my attention a program she was working on for the New York States Attorney General’s Office. The program, started in November of 2010, has implemented procedures to locate and capture human trafficking rings in New York. I was rather surprised to hear that this was a “new” task force, seeing as Human Trafficking has presumptively been around forever. Maybe it is becoming more widespread in the U.S.?

    In 2010, an evaluation of the United States showed the number of female foreign victims of labor trafficking served through victim services programs increased compared with 2009. The top countries of origin for foreign victims in FY 2010 were Thailand, India, Mexico, Philippines, Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic.

    It is hard to believe that slavery still exists. Human Trafficking affects over 180 countries. It is an estimated 31 billion dollar a year business.

    http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2011/164237.htm

  7. Another form of slavery, more-so an umbrella term, is that of Human Trafficking which is happening within our own country. Everyday, human trafficking occurs on the US-Mexico border despite border control officers who only seem to grab the small time smugglers. Why is human trafficking and slavery currently flourishing at the US-Mexico border?
    This is likely due to the current economic climate. As it seems to have always been the case, Mexico cannot provide enough jobs for its ever growing population, and Mexican families often depend on remittances from mexican migrants into the US as laborers. Additionally, even though there is high unemployment in the United States, many areas of work are often dubbed “unsuitable” or Americans are unwilling to “meet demand for low-wage labour in agriculture, food processing, personal services, and other highly competitive sectors, where the work force is being eroded by the workplace raids and resulting deportations of the undocumented migrants who have traditionally been the mainstay of these industries” (Taken from Freedom From Fear Magazine, “Human Trafficking on the US-Mexico Border”).

    It is these conditions that make human trafficking of slaves flourish, and to me this seems like an endless cycle that will results whenever we face hard economic times. How can this be prevented? It is inconceivable that the economic climate will directly translate to an increase in human trafficking, so there must be some way to stop this. The question is how?

  8. I agree that immigration laws should be reformed to accommodate those who speak out about slavery. Although creating a uniform immigration mechanism to abolish slavery is difficult, there should be guaranteed immunity for slaves who seek refuge. In many cases, fleeing to other countries is the only remedy, but immigration laws prevent these slaves from doing so. Can the U.N. create a mechanism whereby all countries engage in a sort of reciprocity act that allows slaves to escape and report wrongdoings? How do we get these countries on board? Will government corruption interfere with these basic human rights?

  9. This past summer, I interned at the New York Attorney General’s Office, and one of the major projects I was involved with was establishing ways to prosecute human trafficking / identifying trafficking rings. What I found particularly inspiring about the program was the proactive stance of the Attorney General. The Office was making a point of actually going out and searching for the traffickers rather than waiting for trafficking victims to come forward. Since human trafficking and slavery are so intertwined (in many situations, trafficking obviously leads to human slavery), I feel more of a proactive stance needs to be taken in order to affectively combat slavery: one that focuses primarily on actively searching out those that are enslaving humans rather than waiting for victims to come forward. Similarly with trafficking victims, victims of slavery live in so much fear of their captors that it is extremely difficult for them to come forward even if they know the government or international community is on their side.

    As a result, I feel the international community needs to come together and make it a goal to have law enforcement units in countries that actively go out and search for those that are enslaving humans. Perhaps make it a goal to have these units report to an international committee in order to insure that progress is being made, and to make other participating countries aware of the techniques they are using to combat the problem. Of course, this initiative would need to be voluntary. Some countries / cities do have these units, yet they may be grossly underfunded, understaffed, or they are run by those who are disinterested with the goal of reducing trafficking or slavery. Additionally, I think international organizations like the United Nations could support some non-profits that are creating some interesting methods regarding ways to educate the world on and combat human trafficking and slavery. Much like this one:

    http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/ideas/view/8553

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