• Modern-day slavery has taken on other forms such as being trapped in debt bondage or being forced to work in factories. (Supplied)
It's not as overt as in the past - but it still exists.
By
Jeremy Cassar

5 Aug 2016 - 1:06 PM  UPDATED 5 Aug 2016 - 1:45 PM

Don’t let the absence of shackles and plantations confuse you. Slavery is alive and kicking in the modern world...

 

Illegal brothels in Australia

Forced prostitution is a pervasive problem the world over, with one twist seen locally sending it into slavery territory. At various locations in Australian cities, cheap sexual favours are offered under the guise of massage therapy. But behind faded diagrams of the human musculature system work a rotating roster of young immigrants, some of whom have been tricked into the job and told it’s the only means for them to pay back their travel costs.

The AFP told a 2015 parliamentary inquiry that its officers had carried out 24 investigations involving alleged sexual servitude in the previous 12 months. One officer said there was a “wide and vast” human trafficking problem. This practice of scamming both legal and illegal immigrants into a sordid life they never chose is the subject of regular scrutiny in the media and at a government level.

What does modern slavery look like?
Australia shares the UK's ranking for modern slavery, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index.

Forced fishing in Thailand

A primarily Thai con that Human Rights Watch calls “systematic” and “pervasive” sees men from Cambodia and Burma promised factory jobs then sold to work in the fishing industry as slaves. Brokers capitalise on boat owners' and captains' desperation to compensate for the shortage of fisherman, estimated at 50,000 in 2014.

The unfortunate men are trapped at sea, forced to work often unpaid and in dangerous conditions. Unproductive workers can be killed and thrown overboard. One Burmese man who escaped the traffickers told the BBC: “People said, anyone who tried to escape had their legs broken, their hands broken, or even killed.”

The military government implemented measures in April 2015 aimed at stamping the trade out, but activists say slavery continues.

Threats, abuse of power, demands for sex – modern slavery is happening in Australia
Comment: Forms of exploitation amounting to modern slavery are happening in Australia, writes Heather Moore, and we need community awareness and accountability to combat it.

Child soldiers in South Sudan

Last year, the United States named eight countries as violating the Child Soldiers Protection Act – including South Sudan, where 16,000 child soldiers have been recruited by both sides in the country's civil war. Many are kidnapped and sent into battle, but some choose the life because their families and relatives have been lost or killed. The rebel force known as the White Army is thought to have sent thousands of children into battle.

UK charity War Child estimates that of the 250,000 child soldiers in the world, 40 per cent are female.

Comment: We need an Anti-Slavery Commissioner
Human trafficking and slavery is alive in Australia, and an Anti-Slavery Commissioner could provide real benefits for its vulnerable victims, writes Insight guest Professor Jennifer Burn.

Cannabis farmers in the UK

South-east Asian children are being tricked into lives of forced labour on British cannabis farms – and then thrown into prison once arrested by authorities. Despite the UK trying to address the problem by passing the Modern Slavery Bill last year, an estimated 3000 Vietnamese children are in forced labour growing the plant. Unregulated working conditions leaves them exposed to toxic chemicals used in its cultivation.

Authorities estimate of all trafficked people linked to cannabis cultivation, 96 per cent are Vietnamese and 82 per cent are children.

Comment: Too many Australians remain unaware slavery exists in the ‘lucky country’
Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to a lack of support networks, limited understanding of Australian workplace relations, or simply a desperation for income.

Construction workers in Qatar

The Qatari government and its labour laws have fallen under scrutiny since winning the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Reports allege that multinational firms running large-scale projects in the region mistreated migrant workers on a massive scale. Balfour Beatty and Interserve, two of the UK’s largest construction companies, have been accused of abuses including confiscating passports and slashed wages.

The building boom caused by the World Cup is worth US$220bn, with millions of migrants flooding the country – and being treated like modern-day slaves.

 

All 4 episodes of Roots are available on SBS On Demand. Watch the first right here:

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