Subject: [Stop-traffic] CORRECTION - News/UK: SLAVERY 'WORSE NOW THAN UNDER ROMAN EMPIRE'
From: Melanie Orhant (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Nov 16 2000 - 12:45:54 EST
I posted the message without anything in it - oops. A number of
people have asked me about it, so I searched and found the original
The Independent (London), December 2, 2000
SLAVERY WORSE NOW THAN UNDER ROMAN EMPIRE'
Ian Burrell Home Affairs Correspondent
SLAVERY IS more common around the world than at any time in human
history, according to the latest research by a British-based academic
who advises the
Kevin Bales, a professor of sociology at the University of Surrey
in Roehampton, has calculated that 27 million people now live as
slaves, more than in the
Roman Empire or at the height of the transatlantic slave trade.
He said that although legal ownership of people was no longer
claimed, modern slaves lived in
worse conditions than when the practice was lawful. His comments
coincide with today's United Nations International Day for the
Abolition of Slavery.
Professor Bales said that slavery was becoming increasingly
common in Western countries such as Britain as human trafficking led
to people being tricked into
domestic service and prostitution. The problem was often not
taken seriously by the authorities because modern forms of
exploitation did not exactly match
traditional ideas of slavery. "They must understand that slavery
is a relationship between two people marked by dominance. No one
would argue that marriage
is the same now as it was in 1850. Slavery has changed too."
Slave transactions featured in the earliest written records and
had occurred in various forms almost throughout human history.
"Sometimes it has been part of
the legal system and sometimes it has not. At the moment it is
not part of the legal system," he said.
Professor Bales, who is a member of the UN's working group on
contemporary forms of slavery, said his 27 million figure had been
accepted by the UN. It was
calculated by researchers analysing conditions in countries
around the world over several years.
Professor Bales said his research team had used a "narrow"
definition of slavery, which did not include the millions of people
working in sweatshops or doing
prison labour. "Slavery is people who are completely controlled
by another person using violence or the threat of violence and are
paid absolutely nothing. It
would apply to someone in Mississippi in 1850 as it does today.
These are people who are enslaved."
Professor Bales said the number of slaves in the world had
"increased dramatically" since 1950 partly as a consequence of a
steep rise in the global population.
He said great economic changes in the developing world had forced
people to abandon stable but poor rural existences to live in
"destitution" in shanty towns,
where they were subject to "economic and social vulnerability".
Those factors had been compounded by growing levels of police and
government corruption, which allowed different forms of slavery to
The most common form of modern slavery was debt bondage, where a
person pledged himself or herself against a loan. That was
particularly prevalent in the
Indian sub- continent. Another growth area was contract slavery,
where workers were tricked into signing away their rights. That was
found in south-east Asia,
Brazil, Africa, some Arab states and parts of India.
War slavery - where civilians were forced into unpaid work on
military construction projects - existed in Burma and Sudan.
The common view of the problem - chattel slavery, where people
were born or sold into the possession of another - was increasingly
rare but still found in north
and west Africa and some Arab states. Unlike America in the early
19th century, when African plantation workers could cost the modern
equivalent of pounds
40,000 and were an important investment, modern slaves were
plentiful and cheap.
The professor said: "Buying a slave in 1850 was like buying a
tractor today. They were seen as productive and fairly scarce." A
slave now cost about $ 90 (pounds
60). "Instead of being a capital purchase item they have become a
disposable input to a process."
At its height the Roman Empire was said to absorb 500,000 slaves
a year, with about 250,000 living in Rome, some one in four of the
city's population. The
transatlantic slave trade took an estimated 13 million people
from Africa in 350 years.
But the current growth of slavery was far greater, with the
global population now at more than six billion - six times greater
than 150 years ago.
Researchers suggest that 500,000 people may enter Europe
illegally this year. Of these, about 100,000 are believed to be in
contract slavery, paying off debts of up
to pounds 20,000 to gangs who organised their passage.
Mike Dottridge, director of Anti-Slavery International, based in
London, said: "In the UK, migrant domestic workers, as well as women
in the sex industry, are
most at risk. Women are brought by traffickers from Africa,
eastern Europe and Asia. They are promised jobs with good pay but
their reality is a life deprived of
freedom and ... with the threat or use of violence."
'I wasn't allowed to see a doctor'
'They didn't let me go to church'
Rita, a 30-year-old from India, is being looked after by
Kalayaan, a London organ-isation that supports migrant domestic
workers (Rita is not her real name).
"AN AMERICAN family hired me through an agency in India and took
me to America. There was so much work - ironing, cooking, cleaning,
I didn't have warm clothes and they wouldn't give me any more
clothes. My knee swelled up but they didn't take me to the doctor.
They told me I couldn't see the
doctor because I was not American.
They didn't pay me. They locked me in the house. I wanted to go
to church and they said 'No, you can't go out!'
They didn't give me any shoes. The woman counted the slices of
bread that I ate and there was never enough food. They told me they
had paid for me to come to
America so they wouldn't give me anything.
I got up at 6am when they wanted to go jogging, and I didn't go
to bed until two or three in the morning. They had guests and parties
so I had to cook for them.
I wanted to leave that family but I couldn't because the door was locked.
Then they sent me to London to clean for their daughter. They
gave me $ 5 (about pounds 3) and an air ticket. I arrived in London
on 26 June 1998.
The police at the airport said 'Where is your employer?' I was
crying because I didn't have any money. They let me out and I tried
to get a taxi.
I didn't know anybody. I didn't know how to change the money
because I didn't speak English. I decided I had to run away. I went
into a church.
I saw an Indian man and I asked for help. They gave me the
address of Kalayaan. The man gave me food and they gave me pounds 5
to get a taxi.
I feel it's OK now. I stayed with another worker and I got a job.
Now I can pay my rent and I have a visa."
GRAPHIC: Rita says: 'I wanted to leave but I couldn't because the
door was locked'
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