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Forced labour and human trafficking on the rise, new UN study warns

Forced labour and human trafficking on the rise, new UN study warns

Forced labour, slavery and criminal trafficking in human beings - especially women and children - are on the rise worldwide and taking new and insidious forms, according to a just-released study by the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO).

Titled Stopping Forced Labour, the study was prepared as part of the follow-up to the ILO's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the UN agency said in a statement issued today at its headquarters in Geneva.

"The growth of forced labour worldwide is deeply disturbing," stressed ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "The emerging picture is one where slavery, oppression and exploitation of society's most vulnerable members - especially women and children - have by no means been consigned to the past. In light of these findings, the entire world needs to re-examine its conscience and instigate action to abolish forced labour and the often terrible living and working conditions that accompany it. There is no excuse for forced labour in the twenty-first century."

According to the report, main destinations of human trafficking may be the urban centres of the richer countries - Amsterdam, Brussels, London, New York, Rome, Sydney, Tokyo - and the capitals of developing and transition countries. However, the movement of trafficked persons is highly complex and varied. Countries as diverse as Albania, Hungary, Nigeria and Thailand can act as points of origin, destination and transit at the same time.

An essential first step in eliminating forced labour is through assistance to governments in identifying the nature and dimensions of the problem within and across their national borders, the report says, stressing that the complexity of the phenomenon requires a combination of anti-poverty and labour market regulatory measures. Long-standing problems of forced labour might be linked with agrarian institutions requiring reform as regards sustainable agriculture, productivity and human rights concerns.

The ILO report concludes by calling upon governments and social partners in all countries "to deepen understanding and redouble efforts to eliminate this terrible blight on human freedom in all its forms."