Forced Labour

EU, Switzerland events highlight scourge of human trafficking

October 18 is EU anti-trafficking Day, and also marks the start of Switzerland’s first anti-trafficking week. The events aim to raise awareness of the trafficking of human beings, often called modern day slavery. (audio)

Audio | 16 October 2013
TRANSCRIPT: Around the world, almost 21 million people are trapped in forced labour – deceived, deprived of their liberty and exploited.

This criminal practice affects every part of the world and many different sectors. Forced labour may be used, for instance, to produce chocolate, cars, tobacco, clothes and many of the products one uses daily. Forced labour is not far from you. Are you sure that the cook in this little restaurant you like, the lady who cleans your neighbour’s house, or the workers on the construction site next to your office have freely accepted their jobs?

Raising awareness about what is often called modern-day slavery is crucial to eradicating it.

That is why Switzerland has decided to hold its first annual Anti-Trafficking Week starting on October 18, which the European Union marks as Anti-Trafficking Day.

A conference, panel discussions, exhibitions and other events will highlight the fact that forced labour is not something that only happens in developing countries.

Indeed, in the European Union alone, about 880,000 people are in forced labour, according to ILO estimates. That’s 1.8 in every 1,000 persons.

The victims are often among the most vulnerable population groups, says Aurélie Hauchère Vuong of the ILO’s Special Action Programme against Forced Labour

“Victims are frequently drawn from minority or socially excluded groups, many are migrants in search of work. Workers may end in forced labour because they have been deceived about their working conditions, because they are trapped in a vicious cycle of debt, or because their identity papers have been confiscated.
Victims often work in hidden or remote places such as private homes, sweatshops, nightclubs or agriculture fields, in the formal and the informal economy. ”

Over recent years, there has been growing recognition of the importance of measures to deter would-be perpetrators and strengthen law enforcement responses.

But, while most countries have adopted legislation criminalizing forced labour, enforcement remains too weak to act as a deterrent, sometimes leading to impunity or to light sentences such as fines or conditional prison sentences.

“The successful prosecution of offenders remains inadequate – this must change. The world needs to take action against this violation of the most basic human rights. We must show zero tolerance. It is shocking that human trafficking continues nowadays and that millions of men, women and children should be coerced into jobs they can’t leave, tricked and trapped in sub-human working conditions.”

The ILO believes forced labour can be eradicated. But the fight needs to be stepped up to reach this goal in the near future.
Patrick Moser at the ILO