March 22, 2007 / 8:47 AM / 12 years ago

FACTBOX-Modern slavery - some key facts

(Reuters) - Two centuries after Britain’s first act abolishing the slave trade received royal assent, trafficking in human flesh is still thriving, anti-slavery campaigners say.

Here are details of persistent slavery in the 21st century:


— Slavery is officially banned internationally by all countries, yet despite this there are more slaves than ever before. Today there are an estimated 27 million slaves worldwide: people paid no money, locked away and controlled by violence.

— An estimated 218 million children are used for labour, United Nations Childrens Fund UNICEF says. Millions work in especially horrific circumstances, including the virtual slavery of bonded labour.

— An estimated 126 million children work in the worst forms of child labour — one in 12 of the world’s 5-17-year-olds.

— There are around 300,000 child soldiers involved in over 30 areas of conflict worldwide, some younger than 10 years old.


— BONDED LABOUR - People become bonded labourers by taking or being tricked into taking a loan for as little as the cost of medicine for a sick child. To repay the debt, many are forced to work long hours, and sometimes all year. They receive basic food and shelter as “payment” for their work, but many may never pay off the loan, which can be passed down for generations.

— FORCED LABOUR - People are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work, usually under threat of violence or other penalties.

— TRAFFICKING - The transport and/or trade of women, children and men from one area to another for the purpose of forcing them into conditions of slavery. Human trafficking ranks as the second largest criminal industry globally, second only to drug smuggling, and equal with illegal weapons transactions.


— The vast majority of the world’s slaves are in South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

— Millions of children in India are given up by their families into virtual slavery as domestic workers. Children are exploited by employers and made to do strenuous labour for little or no pay.

— Despite a ban on employing children under 14, India’s labour ministry recently said there are 12.6 million children aged between 5 and 14 working, the largest number of child labourers in the world.


— British government research shows that during 2003 there were an estimated 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in Britain. The figure has risen at least threefold since 1998, according to Home Office figures.

— Romania and its southern neighbour Bulgaria are among 11 countries listed by the United Nations as top sources of human trafficking, based on reported numbers of victims. Sofia’s interior ministry’s organised crime unit said at the end of 2006 that 4,000-5,000 Bulgarian women are trafficked a year.

— Other countries in the region, the poorest in Europe, are also hotbeds for organised crime and illegal trade such as Moldova and Ukraine.


— Last July, ministers from 26 West and Central African countries launched a new attempt to revitalise the fight against people trafficking, which fuels child labour and sexual exploitation in the region and beyond.

— An estimated 200,000-800,000 people are trafficked each year in the sub-region. Children are moved within and between countries to work as domestics, in agriculture or in the markets. Women are tricked with promises of good jobs abroad into forced prostitution in Europe or the Middle East.

— In Mauritania slavery was nominally abolished at independence in 1960 and legally banned again in 1981. Yet rights groups say it persists in the interior of the nation of 3 million inhabitants, many of them nomads.

— Anti-Slavery International has estimated at least 43,000 people live as slaves across Niger, many of them born into slavery and working as domestic servants or farm labourers. Slaves receive only a meagre amount of food and are often victims of violence and sexual abuse.

Sources: Reuters/Anti-Slavery International/


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