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18 Oct, 2013 01:58

Almost 30 million people worldwide live as slaves – report

Almost 30 million people worldwide live as slaves – report

Nearly 30 million people across the globe live as modern-day slaves, according to a new report. Many are forced into being child brides, child soldiers, prostitutes, or laborers. India accounts for nearly half of the worldwide total.

The Global Slavery Index, released by the Australian-based Walk-Free Foundation, investigated 162 countries and discovered slaves in every single one. The human rights organization ranked the nations in order of prevalence of modern slavery per head of population. 

The index estimates that around 29.8 million people across the world have been trafficked for labor or sex work. 

The nation with the highest level of slavery per head of population is Mauritania. With a population of 3.8 million, about 151,000 people – almost four percent - are enslaved. Child marriage and chattel slavery are the two most common types of slavery in the country.

Haiti is the second country on the list with 209,000 slaves. Pakistan follows with 2.1 million enslaved. Forced labor, debt bondages, forced marriage, and child exploitation are the most common threats in both countries. 

A group of rescued workers stand outside a police station after they were saved from a brick kiln in Linfen, northern China's Shanxi province 27 May 2007. Police said 14 June that they had rescued more than 200 people, including 29 children, who were working as "slaves" in brick kilns, in a shocking revelation of labour practices in booming China. (AFP Photo)

India is fourth on the list with up to 14.7 million people, which accounts for almost half of the world’s slaves.  

According to the survey, ten countries account for three-quarters of the world’s slaves. Those nations are China, India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Mauritania, and Bangladesh.

Slavery can still be hereditary, the report says. "Today some people are still being born into hereditary slavery, a staggering but harsh reality, particularly in parts of West Africa and South Asia."

"Other victims are captured or kidnapped before being sold or kept for exploitation, whether through 'marriage,' unpaid labor on fishing boats, or as domestic workers. Others are tricked and lured into situations they cannot escape, with false promises of a good job or an education," the survey continues.  

The country rankings show that rich, developed countries have the lowest rates of slavery. Rule of law, government policies, and political stability also decrease the rate of slavery within a nation.

Five-year-old Rina breaks stones in Siliguri in this picture taken September 2, 2004. Rina has been a professional rock breaker for a year, slaving six days a week in the sapping heat and humidity of West Bengal. (Reuters/Kamal Kishore)

The Global Slavery Index adds comprehensive data to the topic of slavery.

The Guardian published another recent investigation into slavery last month. It revealed that one construction worker a day dies while Qatar builds facilities for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

According to the report, desperate people from Nepal - one of Asia’s poorest nations - make up 40 percent of Qatar’s laborers. Between June 4 and August 8, at least 44 of them died, the newspaper said, citing documents obtained by the Nepalese Embassy in Doha.

Qatar, along with other Gulf nations, uses the so-called “kafala” system, under which each foreign worker hired in the country needs a sponsor - usually their employer. Permission from the sponsor is needed to enter or leave country, or to change jobs. The company is also responsible for issuing IDs, without which workers are reduced to the status of foreign aliens with no legal protection. 

The system essentially leaves migrant workers at the mercy of their employers, who can withhold documents and refuse to pay wages. The workers are then stranded and become exploited, abused, and forced to work long hours in hazardous conditions. 

Following the report, the United Nations condemned Qatar for failing to comply with an international convention banning the use of forced labor. According to one of the provisions of the document, signatories must inspect workplace conditions to ensure that the rights of workers are not infringed upon. Qatar became a signatory in 2007.