Slavery: Ancient and Modern


A new 2013 Global Slavery Index has been published by the Walk Free Foundation, in which we read that Mauritania tops the list of countries where slavery is an issue, when ranked in proportion to population size. Many media outlets were quick to transform this into a headline, which has already blazed its trail through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

There are some important observations to consider when reading these headlines, which I want to highlight:

  • The index uses a broad definition of “modern slavery” which includes child marriage and human trafficking, including illegal immigration. In the case of Mauritania, what exists there, and is still being witnessed today, is descendant slavery, as found in several countries in the index, and which is anything BUT modern. The number of Mauritanian citizens being trafficked is so tiny it defies measurement, and while child marriage is legal under Sharia law, marriage itself is so popular that once again, the numbers are going to be incredibly difficult to determine with any measure of accuracy. Those cases of child marriage we do hear of are mostly in more remote, rural areas with scant statistical records.
  • The population of Mauritania has not been reported using an official census since 2000, and even then, the numbers were deliberately under-reported, as noted by the World Bank and the UN, the secondary sources used by this new index. All numbers for population for the past 13 years have been estimated and extrapolated from other data sources. These sources are studies which will also determine the scope of aid programs, a major source of income for successive, corrupt, governments of Mauritania. Therefore we must assume the numbers reported for those studies is impacted by the opportunistic greed of the ruling administration.
  • The percentage arrived at by the index is 4%. This is in stark contrast to the figure of 10% to 20% usually reported by NGOs and human rights organisations. No explanation is offered for this apparent discrepancy. Clearly, the government, which remains sternly in denial of the continued existence or practice of slavery in Mauritania, will consider this a major PR coup in its favour.
  • Hillary Clinton has noted that the new index is “not perfect” and therefore, we should expect to see changes to it as it develops over time.
Freed into homelessness and unemployment, former slaves in Mauritania build makeshift villages from found materials. But they are often made homeless again, their shanty-towns bulldozed in land-grabs, as happened in Leimghetty, outside the capital, Nouakchott, in May 2013

Freed into homelessness and unemployment, former slaves in Mauritania build makeshift villages from found materials. But they are often made homeless again, their shanty-towns bulldozed under order of state officials, as happened in Leimghetty, outside the capital, Nouakchott, in May 2013

We must take the issue of slavery seriously, because it is widespread and damaging and goes against everything decent human beings hold dear. But we don’t need glossy reports or “world leaders” (see video below) moralising about the subject as much as we need to see real concrete plans about how this scourge is going to be eradicated, and sensible actions which offer practical help for the victims to regain a dignified independence as well as their liberty.


At the moment, it looks like the main concern about slavery as far as many states are concerned, is that the proceeds are part of the “grey economy,” and therefore those doing the enslaving are also avoiding paying tax. It would seem that governments are more comfortable with the notion of fostering the sprawling mass of aid and development organisations, and collecting income tax from their often very highly-paid executives, while the rest of the agencies’ funds are able to legitimately avoid standard company tax because they are registered charities.

With new, harsher penalties being announced by the UK for anyone found guilty of trafficking, there is a great deal of justifiable public concern for the fate of the victims in all this, which is not clear from the statements being issued. These concerns are echoed in every country where trafficking or slavery is a problem. In Mauritania, for example, “international pressure” has led to a succession of rules, laws and proclamations from the government of the time, paying lip-service to the exhortations of donor organisations and countries willing to invest or otherwise bring revenue into the state coffers, with humanitarian strings attached. Yet each time the regime has banned or outlawed the practice of slavery, it has led to groups of people being “freed” by their former owners out of panic and fear, rather than concern. This has created a group of socially isolated former slaves, cast out of a bad but familiar situation, into an even more extreme state of insecurity, with no food, shelter, or work, and lacking even a basic education.

How extreme? Bad enough that some of them were forced to seek shelter in the refugee camp built to house those displaced from the conflict in neighbouring Mali. What happened when they were supposedly discovered? The UNHCR refused to feed them, and stopped issuing food rations to the entire camp, provoking a riot during which the food stores were broken into and rations seized by angry, humiliated, hungry, people with nowhere else to go and no other choices. That camp has been open since January 2012, and those Mauritanians were there almost from the start, but they were initially useful in boosting numbers for fund-raising appeals and supplying dramatic subtext to help justify the deployment of French and other military forces in Mali. Now, they’re surplus to requirements. Ironically, it is against the law to be homeless in Mauritania, land of the nomad. Expelling these Mauritanians from the refugee camp will subject them to risk of arrest and possible imprisonment, and certainly to harassment.

Such groups are likely to be found in every country where slavery is a current issue, and several where it has supposedly been eliminated, although their situations will vary. They all need support, and it should be delivered with as much publicity and enthusiasm as the speeches and statements and statistics, if not more.


#Ghana Outlaws #HumanTrafficking


Ghana President John Atta Mills

Accra, July 5: An amendment to the Immigration Act which criminalises migrant smuggling in Ghana has won final approval from president John Atta Mills.

“It was necessary to criminalise migrant smuggling because it is a predicate offence for money laundering under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2008 (Act 749)” Mr William Kwasi Aboah, Minister for the Interior said on Thursday.

With the amendment effected, Ghana’s Immigration Act is now compliant with international standards on money laundering. Opening a two-day conference on Human Smuggling and trafficking organized by the Ghana Immigration Service ((GIS) in Accra, Mr Aboah in a speech read for him by Mr Kobby Acheampong, Deputy Minister for the Interior, thanked members of Parliament for passing the Bill under a certificate of urgency. The conference theme “Building Partnerships to Counter Human Smuggling and Trafficking in Ghana” was attended by staff of the Service nationwide, participants from Nigeria, the Diplomatic corps, and journalists.

The conference aims at building capacity of officers of the GIS and its partner agencies in the use of information-gathering, expertise in intelligence-gathering and skills as important tools for effectively tackling criminal networks that operate behind organised irregular migration. Mr Aboah noted that, with the world becoming a global village, it was faced with the implication of migration, interlinked by a web of interdependence, co-operation, collaboration and collective endeavours in many human activities.

This means no particular continent, regional or sub-regional group or country could work alone or survive on its own in dealing with migrants smuggling and human trafficking, which had become issues of alarming concerns in con temporary times. The Sector Minister therefore called for collaborative efforts in combating the phenomena of migrant smuggling and human trafficking as “a twin global canker.

“Considering the sophisticated nature of how the twin crimes are perpetrated with perfection and impunity, we all need to adopt multi-faceted partnership approaches if we are to achieve any remarkable successes in the fight against human smuggling and other forms of irregular migration in Ghana.”

He said strategies should also be put in place to eradicate the phenomenon, by dismantling the syndicated organizations that operate clandestinely behind the inhuman business of human smuggling and trafficking. Mr Aboah assured the GIS of government resources and support, to ensure that it delivered on its stated objectives of controlling and managing migration in Ghana effectively and efficiently,
with socio-economic development and national security interests as major concerns.

Dr Peter Wiredu, Acting Director of Immigration Service and Strategic Programme Manager, Thematic Programme, said human trafficking, which has ancient origins, had become a serious global menace impacting negatively on victims as well as on most developed and developing countries.

“What makes the phenomenon more serious is its potential to occasion the loss of precious lives of poor innocent people, who are often unduly taken advantage of by smugglers in their quest to seek so-called greener pastures and employment in developed countries”.

Dr Wiredu explained that human trafficking involves an element of force or deceit, with victims having no choice in being forced across territorial borders to be exploited.

Migrant smuggling is used by smugglers to obtain short-term financial or material benefit. The general practice refers to consensual transactions where the transporter and the transported agree to circumvent immigration control for mutual advantageous reasons.
Dr Wiredu said there was evidence that Ghana qualifies as a source, transit and destination country in the context of migrant smuggling and human trafficking, adding that the recent Libyan crisis and its subsequent mass evacuation of about 25,000 Ghanaians attest to the fact that Ghana was a really a source country.

He said between January 2010 and May 2012, 124 cases involving migrant smuggling were dealt with, through interception, by Immigration Officers at various entry points, especially at the Kotoka International Airport. He said the conference would serve as a way forward for Ghana as a country, to curb the disturbing emerging trends in migrant smuggling and human trafficking which was an inhuman menace.

Mr Claude Maerten, Head of the European Union Delegation in Ghana, said trafficking of human beings was an extremely serious crime, and a gross violation of human rights which could be classified as a modern form of slavery, and that the issue had become a priority for the EU. He said there was currently a global approach between EU Countries and Non-EU countries based on identification of common interests and challenges of human trafficking.

“Through the sharing of experiences, challenges and best practices on fighting the crime, this conference would provide the framework for sustaining the progress made on the menace into the future”, Dr Maerten added.

Madam Morgane Nicot , Associate Expert on Organized Crime and Illicit trafficking branch, UN Office on Drugs and Crime said Ghana had to notify the UN for ratifying the Immigration Amendment law to become the 131st country out of the over 200 countries which had ratified the law. She stressed on the need for the country to see to implementation of the law to duly punish traffickers to deter others from engaging in the practice and to continue to protect the victims.

Article 3 of the United Nations Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants define “migrant smuggling” as “Procurement , in order to obtain, directly or indirectly a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a state Party of which the person is not a national of a permanent resident”.


Most #Zambia Drug Traffickers are Women, and Victims



Nolubabalo Nobanda said: “I am not a drug trafficker but a victim of the human trafficking business”. She was caught with 1.5kg of cocaine hidden in her hair in Singapore.

354 people have been arrested over the last six months for drug-trafficking offences on the Copperbelt with most of them being women.
Copperbelt permanent secretary Christopher Mutembo said during the commemoration of the World Anti-Drug Day in Kitwe yesterday that it is evident that Zambia is facing serious challenges because youths are increasingly becoming vulnerable to drug abuse.
“Current statistics show that the trend of drug abuse is high among people aged between 13 and 50 years, women being in the majority. This is worrying because women are supposed to be the custodians of good health norms,” Mr Mutembo said.
This year’s World Anti-Drug Day was commemorated under the theme A healthy nation free from illicit drugs begins with me.
“Both women and men have not been spared either. This is evidenced by the number of arrests that have been made both locally and abroad on those who have been found with narcotics and psychotropic substances,” Mr Mutembo said.
He said the continued abuse of drugs by youths constitutes a serious health, social and economic problem that could erode national development.
Mr Mutembo said drug abuse increases the risk of HIV/AIDS transmission among abusers due to indulgence in risky sexual behaviour arising from impaired judgement and sharing of drug injection instruments such as needles.
He said Government is aware that the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) has intensified its operations in both prevention and interdiction activities.
He assured DEC of Government’s commitment to supporting programmes aimed at addressing problems of illicit drug abuse in the country.
And DEC Copperbelt regional commander Kelvin Silwimba said the commission is concerned about the increasing number of women involved in drug trafficking.
Mr Silwimba called on communities to help eradicate drug abuse.
He said drug abuse threatens the country’s security hence the need to sensitise people on the dangers of drug trafficking.And Eastern Province is this year topping in cannabis production and abuse because of the increase in the number of people growing the drug, which has also eased the public’s access to the psychotropic substance, provincial permanent secretary Hlobotha Nkunika has said.
Mr Nkunika said cannabis is sold cheaply and easily accessible to the public compared to other exotic drugs such as cocaine that are smuggled in and out of the country, especially by air transport.
He said cannabis is mostly taken alone or with alcohol and that is why its abuse is common among youths.
Mr Nkunika said this in Chipata yesterday during the commemoration of the World Anti- Drug Day.
“In Zambia generally and in Eastern Province particularly, cannabis remains the most trafficked and commonly abused drug as it is cheaply locally grown,” he said.
Statistics indicate that between January and May this year, 120 people were arrested in Eastern Province for drug- trafficking offences while 14,545 people in schools, workplaces, communities, prisons and churches were sensitised against the use of illicit drugs.
Mr Nkunika said the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) is currently attending to 15 drug- dependent persons under its counselling and rehabilitation programme.
He said the theme for this year is timely because drug abuse and trafficking contribute significantly to the high number of school drop-outs, increased crime, high HIV/AIDS infections, defilement, wife battery and compromised health.
Mr Nkunika said while Government enacts and enforces laws to curb vices like drug trafficking and abuse, communities should also take an active role in fighting the illegality.
“I believe that our society has a central role to play in guiding both girls and boys to enable them to grow in a drug abuse-free environment,” he said.
He urged parents and guardians to ensure children grow in drug- free communities and discourage pupils from cannabis smoking and alcohol abuse.
Earlier, DEC Eastern Province regional commander Addressie Munene expressed worry about the increase in the number of people growing cannabis in the province.
Mr Munene urged communities to report those who grow cannabis so that they can face the law.

Zambia Daily Mail.

#HumanTrafficking – dozens suffocated and dumped at roadside


Some of the seventy survivors. Picture: AP

Dozens of dead Ethiopian immigrants were dumped on the side of a road in Tanzania after suffocating in a container truck along with many others who survived, in the second fatal human trafficking incident in the country this year.

Up to 45 bodies were dumped along a busy forest highway on Tuesday, and a further 72 were found alive and taken to hospital.

“I haven’t seen anything like this … There were so many bodies lined up along the road. People in passing vehicles were shocked at the sight,” said Dodoma resident Fatuma Amir.

“When the driver discovered that there were people dying, he decided to throw them in the forest and run away with his vehicle,” deputy home affairs minister Pereira Ame Silima said.

Residents in central Dodoma were the first to report the deaths because of a foul smell. The deceased were taken to the hospital in Dodoma city.

“It is extremely sad and unfortunate that people die by using wrong and self-torturing means to illegally transport themselves to other destinations,” Silima said.

Survivors told officers that while they were locked inside the vehicle they had screamed to the driver to stop after several people passed out due to the lack of air, said police chief Zelothe Stephen.

When the driver finally stopped, he ordered the migrants to dump the corpses and clean the truck, but then sped off leaving the Ethiopians behind in a remote area.

“A manhunt is going on for the driver of the lorry that abandoned the Ethiopian immigrants by the roadside,” said Luppy Kung’alo, a Tanzanian police spokesman.

The east African country is a major transit route for migrants, used by smugglers to ferry Somalis and Ethiopians to Europe, and as believed in this case, South Africa.

The truck was probably on its way to the south-western border with Zambia and Malawi, officials said. Illegal immigrants are often smuggled by truckers from Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam to border towns.

Many immigrants pay agents between $3,000 and $4,000 to reach South Africa. The illegal trip passes through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi or Zambia, Zimbabwe or Botswana and then into South Africa. The shipping containers that the immigrants are crammed into can be changed several times before reaching South Africa.

In January, 20 Somali migrants suffocated to death as they were being smuggled in a cramped container truck through Tanzania. Their bodies were similarly dumped on the road.

At least 47 people thought to be illegal migrants from east Africa died when their boat capsized in a lake in neighbouring Malawi last Friday.

Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have fled the lawless Horn of Africa country since the collapse of a formal government two decades ago, while crippling drought hit both Somalia and Ethiopia last year.


Maldives on Tier 2 Watch List for Human Trafficking 3 years running


Hillary Clinton called human trafficking a “terrible crime” as she presented the State Department’s 2012 report

The Maldives has appeared on the Us State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for the third year in a row.

The report noted that in 2,011, “thirteen suspected victims of human trafficking and two suspected human traffickers were intercepted and deported in three cases of human trafficking identified at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA). ”

The State Department’s report was swiftly followed by news articles in local media this week claiming that private companies and individuals had begun posting ‘cash Bounties’ for Absconded expatriate workers.

According to a report in Sun Online, notices had been posted in cafes windows and garages offering rewards of between Rf1000 (US $ 65) and Rf3000 (US $ 195) for information leading to the whereabouts of foreign nationals in hiding.

Minivan News.