[Stop-traffic] News/Europe: Europe home to thousands of domestic slaves

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Europe: Europe home to thousands of domestic slaves
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Nov 14 2001 - 09:23:46 EST


Europe home to thousands of domestic slaves
By Elizabeth Bryant
United Press International, January 9, 2001

PARIS (UPI) -- Thousands of domestic servants in Europe are subjected to
long work hours with no holidays or decent living accommodations --
conditions amounting to domestic slavery, according to a report by the
European Council in Strasbourg.

"Working conditions and accommodation offend against human dignity," said
the report, which estimates that about 4 million women are sold into
domestic slavery each year.

"These women work between 15 and 18 hours a day, without ever being allowed
a day off," it said. "They do not have their own rooms, and often have only
their employers' leftovers to eat."

Many of the employers are from West Africa and Middle East, but others come
from Europe, Asia and the United States. Roughly 20 percent of them are
diplomats, or have other special postings, allowing them immunity from
prosecution, the European Council reported.

In France, roughly 200 cases have been specifically taken up by the
Committee Against Modern Slavery, a private group in Paris. But the report
estimates several thousand women have worked as "domestic slaves" in France
to date. Many come from West Africa, but others are from Madagascar, India,
Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

"In France, trafficking in human beings and enslaving others are not
criminal offenses as such," the report added.

"Slavery is explicitly reproved only as a crime against humanity" which
suggests a mass act, and cannot be applied in cases of domestic slavery.

In many cases, servants do not speak the language of the foreign country
they work in, the commission reported. They are unaware of their rights,
and cut off from family and other ties. Many are illegal immigrants, who
fear reprisal if they lodge a complaint against their employer.

Moreover, despite a 1997 declaration by the European Union to fight
trafficking of humans, legislation and enforcement measures in Europe
remain spotty. Belgium, Italy and Austria have taken measures to protect
trafficking victims, the report said, including judicial efforts to combat
trafficking, and temporary visas and help for the victims.

But France and the United Kingdom have not passed laws specifically
targeting domestic slavery victims. Much of the assistance instead comes
from nongovernmental organizations, the report said.

The council has called on European countries to boost prevention efforts
and legal assistance to domestic workers.

Among other measures, the report calls for creating compensation funds for
victims, granting residence permits, and setting up specific departments to
deal with domestic slavery.
Melanie Orhant
Stop-Traffic Moderator

Please contact me off-list for any questions about Stop-Traffic at
<<morhant@igc.org>>.

Women's Reproductive Health Initiative
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health
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Stop-Traffic is an open, facilitated, international electronic list
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for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) that addresses human
rights abuses associated with trafficking in persons, with a strong
emphasis on public health. The focus of Stop-Traffic is the
trafficking in persons into sweatshop labor, domestic servitude,
forced prostitution, forced agricultural labor and coercive
mail-order bride arrangements. Trafficking in people for forced
labor is an ever-growing worldwide phenomena that affects the health
and well-being of millions of women, men and children.
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