Study Shows Striking Number of People in Forced Labor

Measures to Combat Human Trafficking Are Proving Inadequate

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BRUSSELS, Belgium, JULY 12, 2012, ( According to a new study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) on forced labor and human trafficking in the European Union, 880,000 people are in forced labor in EU Member states, which statistically equals 1.8 persons per 1,000 inhabitants. 

The study showed that out of the 880,000 forced laborers, 30% are estimated to be victims of forced sexual exploitation and 70% of forced labour exploitation. Women constitute 58%, making them the clear majority of victims. The ILO study also shows that EU citizens were involved in the majority of cases of forced labour exploitation reported in EU Member states. Other victims came from Asia, Africa and Central and South-Eastern Europe. Victims of forced sexual exploitation came primarily from the EU, Central and South-Eastern Europe, Africa, and to a lesser extent Latin America and Asia. Central & South Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States is the region with the highest prevalence of forced labour per 1,000 inhabitants globally. Thirteen out of 19 countries of this region are at the EU’s doorstep.

“Our analysis of cases clearly shows that agriculture, domestic work, manufacturing and construction are the main sectors where forced labor was found in the EU. Victims are lured with false job offers only to find out that conditions of work are worse than they anticipated. Many of them are in an irregular situation and have very limited bargaining power”, said Beate Andrees, head of the ILO’s Special Action Program to Combat Forced Labor. 

The results of the study conducted by the ILO echo the call of preventing human trafficking by the Vatican in an international conference on the matter held in March hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The conference focused on the Church’s role in preventing human trafficking, pastoral care for its victims, and the reintegration of those victims into society. By promoting awareness among the 1.1 billion Catholics worldwide, the conference hoped to establish a fortified network to both prevent human trafficking, and to offer care for its victims.

In recent years, EU Member States have gradually adopted a more comprehensive approach towards trafficking for forced labor and sexual exploitation. The ILO worked jointly with the governments of Germany, Portugal, Italy, Poland, France, Romania and the United Kingdom, to carry out research on the mechanisms of recruitment, deception and abuse in sectors that are vulnerable to trafficking. Also the capacity of labour inspectors throughout the EU in the fight against forced labour has been reinforced.

Nevertheless, in light of these striking new figures, Beate Andrees says that attention should turn to better identification and prosecution of forced labor and related offences such as human trafficking. “The successful prosecution of individuals who bring such misery to so many remains inadequate – this needs to change. We must ensure that the number of victims does not rise during the current economic crisis where people are increasingly vulnerable to these abusive practices,” she said.

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