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50 Million People Trapped Under ‘Modern Slavery’

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The UN has said in its latest report that about fifty million people around the world are trapped in slavery in form of forced labor or forced marriage.

The UN had set a goal to eradicate all forms of modern slavery by 2030, but instead the number of people caught up in forced labor or forced marriage ballooned by 10 million between 2016 and last year, the new report said.

The study, by the UN’s agencies for labor and migration along with the Walk Free Foundation, found that at the end of last year, 28 million people were in forced labor, while 22 million were living in a marriage they had been forced into.

That means nearly one out of every 150 people in the world are caught up in modern forms of slavery, the report said.

“It is shocking that the situation of modern slavery is not improving,” International Labour Organization Director-General Guy Ryder said in a statement. “Nothing can justify the persistence of this fundamental abuse of human rights.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, which worsened conditions and increased debt levels for many workers, has heightened the risk, the report said.

Coupled with the effects of climate change and armed conflicts, it has contributed to “unprecedented disruption to employment and education, increases in extreme poverty and forced and unsafe migration,” compounding the threat, it said.

It is a long-term problem, the report said, with estimates indicating entrapment in forced labor can last years and forced marriage is often “a life sentence.”

Women and children are by far the most vulnerable.

Children account for one out of five people in forced labor, with more than half of them stuck in commercial sexual exploitation, the report said.

Migrant workers are more than three times more likely to be in forced labor than non-migrant adult workers, it said.

“This report underscores the urgency of ensuring that all migration is safe, orderly and regular,” International Organization for Migration Director-General Antonio Vitorino said in the statement.

Modern slavery is present in every nation, with more than half of cases of forced labor and one-quarter of forced marriages in upper-middle income or high-income nations.

The report found that the number of people — mainly women and girls — stuck in forced marriages had risen by 6.6 million since the last global estimates in 2016.

The number of people in forced labor swelled by 2.7 million over the same period.

The increase was driven entirely by more forced labor in the private economy, including in forced commercial sexual exploitation, but the report also said that 14 percent of those in forced labor were doing jobs imposed by state authorities, voicing concern about abuse of compulsory prison labor in a number of nations, including the US.

It also pointed to concerns raised by the UN human rights office about credible accounts of forced labor under exceptionally harsh conditions in North Korea.

It also highlighted the situation in China, where several UN agencies have warned of possible forced labor, including in the Xinjiang region, where Beijing stands accused of detaining more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

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