Scholarly article on topic 'Global Social Policy Forum'

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Academic research paper on topic "Global Social Policy Forum"

Global Social Policy Forum


Editor's Introduction

The 25 th of March 2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. The 1807 Act formally abolished the slave trade in British colonies and hindered the transport of slaves across the Atlantic. It was also in March 1807 that US President Thomas Jefferson signed a bill designed to end the slave trade. The passage of these bills was the result of public campaigning by abolitionist movements drawn from a wide spectrum of society in a number of states.

Two hundred years later slavery and forced labour remain pressing policy issues. Anti-Slavery International ( points out that millions of people live in conditions of modern slavery - forced to work through mental or physical threat, owned or controlled by an employer, bought or sold as a commodity, physically constrained or denied freedom of movement. This Forum highlights some of these problems and the attempts being made to address them.

The Forum begins with a Christien van den Anker arguing that the issue of contemporary slavery is best addressed with a cosmopolitan ethics. This identifies and addresses the root causes of slavery which include neoliberal economic development, gender inequality and multiple forms of discrimination. She suggests that in addition to taking immediate steps to combat slavery larger structural issues must be addressed.

The following two contributions consider the relationship between slavery and migration in different parts of the world. Piya Pangsapa reports on the condition of migrants from Burma, Laos and Cambodia working in the construction, agriculture, factory and domestic industries in Thailand. She highlights the difficult conditions for many of these workers that result from a lack of status in the labour importing country and poor economic conditions in the labour exporting country. The issue of the legal status of migrants is also taken up by Steve Cohen. He argues that Britain's immigration laws transform undocumented people from insecure workers into slaves. The individuals themselves are declared illegal and thus become open to worse forms of abuse by employers.

Global Social Policy Copyright © 2007 1468-0181 vol. 7(1): 5-22; 073880 SAGE Publications (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore) DOI: 10.1177/1468018107073880

The final contributions examine the work of two international organizations trying to deal with issues of modern slavery. Patrick Belser from the International Labor Organisation (ILO) updates readers on that institution's attempts to build a Global Alliance Against Forced Labour. The ILO estimates that over 12m people are working in forced labour and that this delivers profits of over US$44bn. Its Global Partnership Alliance attempts to bring together international organizations with state and local officials and movements to address the problem. Ndioro Ndiaye, Deputy Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), highlights the organization's attempts to combat the smuggling and trafficking of people who often end up in forced labour situations. In addition to outlining IOM's support programmes for trafficked people, Ms Ndiaye urges policy makers to address the root causes that lead to their plight.

Slavery and forced labour are not issues that have traditionally been high on the social policy agenda. Hopefully, this Forum will contribute to a growing debate on the subject.


McMaster University, Canada


University of the West of England, UK

Global Ethics and Contemporary Slavery

(CHRISTIEN VAN DEN ANKER is Reader at the School of Politics, University of the West of England, UK.)


Despite international and national laws prohibiting slavery, large numbers of people are caught up in contemporary forms of slavery. Anti-Slavery International estimates conservatively that this figure is around 12m people (Kaye, 2005). This raises some pertinent questions for the ethics of our global institutions and practices: What are the root causes of current slavery and slavery-like practices? And, what steps forward can and ought to be taken by the multiplicity of actors that can affect social transformation to stop those practices? Vice versa, working out an ethical position towards ending slavery provides us with information towards what a just world would look like. These proposals for ending slavery are therefore connected to a set of principles of global justice that would assist in ending slavery yet would also have more general benefits on global inequality.1

THE ROOT CAUSES OF CONTEMPORARY FORMS OF SLAVERY Current debate recognizes the worst forms of child labour, bonded labour, trafficking in human beings, forced labour, slavery based on descent, forced marriage and the abuse of migrant domestic workers as contemporary forms of slavery. These practices have some common causes and some contextual differences. The globalization of capitalism, as a deliberate neo-liberal project,

has affected all forms of contemporary slavery negatively. Impoverishment of segments of local populations creates vulnerability and dependency which is a necessary component of enslavement. Economic pressures on producers create demand for extremely cheap labour, which in human terms means the exploitation of people achieved through the use of coercion, often in the form of force, violence, threats and deception. As Mary Robinson said: '[I]t is a great hypocrisy that American companies benefit from the low salaries that undocumented migrants are paid for their work at the same time that they use their power to suppress migrant workers' rights' (Quintero, 2006).

Restrictive and complex migration laws leave migrant workers in a position where the fear of deportation is often exploited by abusive employers even if a migrant has the right to work legally in the country of destination. Unfair labour conditions are harder to walk away from if the migrant worker is not aware of the legal options of changing employers. Temporary schemes to register migrant workers can also provide an opportunity for employers to withhold documents and force the worker to accept exploitative conditions (van den Anker, 2006).

Gender inequality is another root cause of contemporary slavery. 'Together, poverty and gender inequality are strong determinants of the propensity to migrate, the type of migration and the consequences of migration for women' (Boyd, 2006). Domestic violence is one of the contributing factors that make women vulnerable to trafficking and slavery-like exploitation due to its psychological impact on self-esteem. Lack of opportunities in employment drives many women to look for work abroad. While migration can be part of women's empowerment, it also holds the risk of exploitation and violence. Abuse during a migration trajectory is often gender specific. In the country of destination the division of migrant workers over industries and types of work are mostly gendered, too (van den Anker, 2006).

Discrimination on the grounds of race and ethnicity, and of indigenous peoples also forms a root cause for contemporary forms of slavery. Due to vulnerability both in countries of origin and in countries of destination, people from minorities are over-represented in the category of victims of slavery. Stereotypes lead to forcing people into specific types of employment. In domestic work, women from some countries are seen as particularly good with children and end up as nannies, whereas others are seen as especially good at house work and end up as cleaners (Anderson, 2004). The issue of multiple discrimination or inter-sectionality is increasingly on the agenda of the international community.


At present, the debate on policy responses to contemporary forms of slavery has focused a lot on anti-trafficking measures. This is regrettable for several reasons. First, governments tend to draw trafficking into the security discourse, which leaves the bulk of the intervention in the realm of measures that are anti-immigration and restrict other civil liberties. These create additional space for traffickers and exploitative employers through people's dependence on others (for transport and documents). Second, the central place of trafficking

in the debate on combating contemporary forms of slavery takes the attention away from human rights violations of people who do not travel between countries. Third, the trafficking debate is narrowly focused on trafficking for prostitution whereas trafficking for forced labour in other industries requires urgent attention (van den Anker, 2006).

In contrast, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) call for victim-centred approaches that identify victims of all contemporary forms of slavery and address their human rights abuses.2 These human rights based approaches move beyond the area of trafficking in human beings and address the violations of personal integrity as well as labour rights in all contemporary forms of slavery, for example in the campaign to get more signatures and ratifications for the Migrant Workers' Convention. However, despite their obvious good effects, human rights based approaches are limited to lobbying for new international law and implementing existing international law.3 Their focus is therefore on the obligations of states to the citizens of their own countries, with some attention being paid to legal residents. However, illegal residents are vulnerable to detention and deportation without legal redress.

A third framework for policy responses to combat contemporary forms of slavery calls for a cosmopolitan approach that recognizes the need for long-term prevention of trafficking (van den Anker, 2006). This could be a useful way of addressing all forms of contemporary slavery. In addition to victim-centred human rights based approaches, a cosmopolitan perspective addresses the common root cause of global inequality and incorporates the agency of potential victims. Moreover, a cosmopolitan approach can generate duties beyond state boundaries that apply to non-citizens, too. These international duties go some way towards resolving the stand-off between human rights law and state sovereignty in cases of non-compliance.

Some specific proposals that have been found of interest to cosmopolitans against slavery are the framework of development assistance, the Tobin Tax, Fair Trade and reparations for slavery. Development assistance, if seen as helpful in reducing poverty, would assist in taking away some of the root causes of slavery. The debate on development ethics would contribute to an ethical debate on the duties people owe to others on reducing poverty and on combating slavery (Dower, 2004). The Tobin tax would generate funds that could be used to support investment rather than speculation; it would reduce currency volatility and therefore be a preventative measure for currency crises; it would give greater freedom to governments over their monetary policy and it would raise revenue to fund addressing global health and environmental problems (Dowling, 2004).

Fair Trade (despite starting with a relatively small segment of trade) has contributed to a change in thinking of trade as (from a producer's perspective) always being about making maximum profit and (from a consumer's perspective) always paying the cheapest price for a good. Moral considerations for small producers and the notion of a fair price have permutated economic decision-making. Fair Trade has contributed to combating slavery by creating

income generation opportunities and guarantees for regular income for small producers. These in turn led directly to children being sent to school rather than forced to work. By criticizing the structure of the world economy, Fair Trade also contributes to the wider debate of creating fair trading on a larger scale (Manokha, 2004). Finally, reparations for the transatlantic slave trade would contribute to a fund that could be used for poverty reduction (van Bueren, 2004). It would also highlight the moral wrong of slavery and could create educational opportunities for campaigners against contemporary forms of slavery.

All these measures form part of a cosmopolitan agenda that would contribute to the long-term prevention of contemporary forms of slavery. The stress in this approach on the importance of duties beyond national boundaries supports the human rights discourse yet emphasizes a cosmopolitan rather than a state-based interpretation of the human rights doctrine (van den Anker, 2005).


In this short article I highlighted some of the ethical issues raised by contemporary forms of slavery. I argued that a cosmopolitan approach to global justice would be preferable to a state-centred human rights approach, as cosmopolitanism would include duties across boundaries to assist in the protection of human rights worldwide and proposals such as development assistance, Fair Trade, the Tobin Tax and Reparations for the Transatlantic Slave Trade would be beneficial to reducing poverty and therefore avoiding the vulnerability that leads to enslavement. Cosmopolitan proposals for global taxation other than the Tobin Tax might be of use here, too.

Yet, reducing the numbers of people affected by contemporary forms of slavery does not have to wait until a cosmopolitan version of a just world has been implemented fully. Support for human rights, stressing labour and migrant workers' rights and combating discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, belonging to indigenous peoples and gender, are all necessary first steps. While a lot of emphasis in the debate on contemporary slavery is focused on specific forms like trafficking in human beings and specific policies, it is useful to hold out that an overarching cosmopolitan perspective on reducing global inequality is not only relevant to people interested in designing utopias but would have real benefits for people who are suffering from current forms of slavery and exploitation.

1. These were first developed in C. van den Anker (2004).

2. For a comparison between current campaigns and the historical struggle to abolish slavery, see J. Quirk (2006).

3. A success of the human rights movement was the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime, which established an international consensus on the definition of trafficking. For a critique of the so called Palermo Protocol see I. van Liempt (2006).


Anderson, B. (2004) 'Migrant Domestic Workers and Slavery', in C. van den Anker

(ed.) The Political Economy of New Slavery (pp. 107-17). Basingstoke: Palgrave. Boyd, M. (2006) 'Women in International Migration: The Context of Exit and Entry for Empowerment and Exploitation', paper presented at the High-Level Panel on The Gender Dimension of International Migration, United Nations, Commission on the Status of Women, 2 March, New York, daw/csw/csw50/statements/CSW%20HLP%20Monica%20Boyd.pdf Dower, N. (2004) 'The Global Framework for Development: Instrumentality or Contested Ethical Space?', in C. van den Anker (ed.) The Political Economy of New Slavery (pp. 181-200). Basingstoke: Palgrave. Dowling, E. (2004) 'Strategies for Change: The Tobin Tax', in C. van den Anker (ed.)

The Political Economy of New Slavery (pp. 201-16). Basingstoke: Palgrave. Kaye, M. (2005) '1807-2007: Over 200 Years of Campaigning Against Slavery'.

London: Anti-Slavery International. Manokha, I. (2004) 'Modern Slavery and Fair Trade Products: Buy One Set Someone Free', in C. van den Anker (ed.) The Political Economy of New Slavery (pp. 217-34). Basingstoke: Palgrave. Quintero, N.G. (2006) 'Hypocrisy: Exploit Migrants and Remove Workers' Rights-Robinson' (27 July), El Universal, accessed 31 October 2006, Quirk, J. (2006) 'The Anti-Slavery Project: Linking the Historical and Contemporary',

Human Rights Quarterly 28(3): 565-98. Van Bueren, G. (2004) 'Slavery as Piracy: The Legal Case for Reparations for the Slave Trade', in C. van den Anker (ed.) The Political Economy of New Slavery (pp. 235-47). Basingstoke: Palgrave. van den Anker, C. (ed.) (2004) The Political Economy of New Slavery. Basingstoke: Palgrave. van den Anker, C. (2005) 'Cosmopolitanism and Human Rights', in R.K. Smith and

C. van den Anker (eds) Essentials of Human Rights (pp. 67-9). London: Hodder. van den Anker, C. (2006) 'Trafficking and Women's Rights: Beyond the Sex Industry

to "Other Industries"', Journal of Global Ethics 2(2): 161-80. Van Liempt, I. (2006) 'Trafficking in Human Beings: Conceptual Dilemmas', in C. van den Anker and J. Doomernik (eds) Trafficking and Women's Rights (pp. 27-42). Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Please address correspondence to: Christien van den Anker, University of the West of England, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK. [email: Christien.Vandenanker@]

PIYA PANGSAPA University at Buffalo (SUNY), USA

Enslavement in Thailand: Southeast Asia as the Microcosm of 21st Century Slavery1

(PIYA PANGSAPA is Assistant Professor of Women's Studies at the University at Buffalo [SUNY], USA.)

This intervention is based on research conducted in Thailand during the summer of 2005 (as well as drawing on previous research projects between 2002-4), in the border town of Mae Sot in Tak province on the Thai side of

the Thai-Burmese border. First some context - within the borderland zones of the Greater Mekong region, hundreds of thousands of migrants from neighboring Burma, Laos and Cambodia work in textile factories, on farms, on construction sites, in fisheries, in food processing industries, and as domestic workers in private households. Migrants working on fruit orchards, rice fields, onion, and chili pepper farms live in simple, makeshift huts on the plantation or in overcrowded on-site accommodations, make between 50 to 100 baht (US$1.25-2.50) per day and, as a result of deregulation, without protection from the pesticides that they handle (Amnesty International, 2005). In the fishing industry, migrants working on piers are forced to work seven days a week, are subject to verbal abuse, and are paid by piece-rate while those working on boats stay out at sea for weeks at a time. Meanwhile, the nearly 100,000 female migrants who work as domestic servants in Thai households, predominantly from Burma, have no job contracts, are verbally, physically and in some cases, sexually abused, and importantly, are kept in relative confinement and isolation. They typically work between 14 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and are paid a monthly salary ranging anywhere between US$12-50. Likewise, migrant factory workers are forced to work between 70 and 100 hours a week in factories surrounded by electric or barbed wire fences behind locked gates, and live in substandard conditions in factory dormitories they are forced to rent.

One investigation revealed that a common living arrangement has 30 to 50 workers sleeping in one room and sharing one toilet in rundown, poorly ventilated buildings with inadequate supplies of running water and clean drinking water (Hveem, 2004). Needless to say, these are horrible conditions for any worker to be subject to and migrant workers deserve a much better deal than they receive. However, in terms of income, many of these migrants (especially the Shan, Karen and Mon peoples) are actually better off, in financial terms, than they were before. It must be added, though, that some migrants had a better socio-economic situation before they came to Thailand -some had their own plantations or farms, built houses on their land, lived in close knit villages and communities but were forced to flee when their lands were confiscated, their plantations were destroyed and their villages were seized. Many were captured by the Burmese army to perform forced labor.

Like all transitions from localized subsistence to factory systems, migrants experience excessive hours without adequate payment and remuneration, as well as poor working and living conditions. In addition, they have also lost their sense of community; this was severed in a factory system where collective organization is forbidden. Thus the experience of migrants varies, as some are better off and others are not. But for many migrants, individualized waged labor in sweatshops is better than being forced to work in labor camps for no pay. Then again, there are hundreds of migrant women and girls who are trafficked into the country to work in brothels as bonded laborers. In other words, there are social as well as economic measures of well-being that must be considered when talking about enslavement and the migrant labor situation.

In the immediate post-Asian crisis (since 1997), refugees and migrants have become disposable human commodities and in the greater Mekong sub-region, migrant workers have become subject to sweatshop enslavement. This is especially the case in the apparel industry, which has seen a growth in subcontracting production as a result of outsourcing and relocation from urban industrial, free trade zones (FTZs) to special economic zones (SEZs) in Thailand's northern border provinces (Pangsapa, 2007b). Stateless migrants now provide the cheapest source of available labor within the territorial borders of Thailand. Moreover, investment opportunities within the region have led not only to the exploitation of human resources but of natural resources across borders (timber, minerals, energy and water) which have been politically facilitated by both the sending and receiving nations (Smith and Pangsapa, 2007).

As victims of rape, torture, forced labor and relocation or witnesses of atrocities carried out by the Myanmar army, Burmese women and men migrate not only out of economic necessity but also to escape a brutal and increasingly repressive political situation inside Burma. For Burmese migrants, the wages they earn in Thailand are better than the average monthly salary in their country of origin (roughly between US$13-17), a rationale often cited as justification by Thai employers for not paying minimum wages to migrant workers. According to labor activists, Burmese migrants prefer to reside temporarily in Thailand than to return to political persecution and economic hardship in Burma. 'If you ask Burmese migrants who are making less than two dollars a day in Mae Sot where they prefer to be, they would tell you that they would rather be here in Thailand,' says one activist. Another labor rights coordinator says that because 'there are few or no jobs for people in Burma, Burmese migrants find that they have more options here' (Pangsapa, 2007a). Pointedly, in a recent study of Burmese migrant domestic workers, many of the women and girls found that living in Thailand was far more difficult than they had envisioned but they were willing to accept that returning home was not an option (Panam et al., 2004).

Most economic migrants and refugees in Thailand do not have citizenship status because they are prohibited from permanently settling in the country. Consequently, their 'temporary status' excludes them from having rights under Thai law and this enables employers to take advantage of their vulnerability. This is not meant to be a justification of contemporary slavery but in Southeast Asia, the situation is much more complex. It also suggests that attention needs to be paid to relative measures of exploitation as well as the absolute measures of exploitation. Other factors include the conditions in which they live and the loss of autonomy. Nevertheless, migrant workers in Thailand have reported widespread abuse by employers and local authorities especially when they attempt to organize. Reports of bribery and extortion are commonplace, including physical threats and intimidation, rapes, abductions, and disappearances. Policy makers must not only consider the political situation in Burma but must be able to make the linkages between human rights abuses, environmental degradation and labor standards violations. Nonetheless, this is a very difficult situation for Burmese workers and one that appears to

be a trans-boundary, territorial and regional issue and not just a national one. Recent events in Thailand (such as the 19 September 2006 military coup) will probably make this situation more difficult.

The Thai government should be compelled to consider reclassifying migrant workers' status but the state has no vested interest in granting citizenship to migrants because a stateless migrant is easier to exploit and thereby economically beneficial to national development. Since receiving and sending nations are not attempting to change the structural conditions that permit cross-border migration, we need to reassess the role of the state, which has been increasingly concerned with the legalization of migrant workers simply for the purpose of supplying cheap labor for industries but not concerned with implementing and enforcing laws that would protect them. For example, pregnant female migrants can be subject to dismissal from their jobs and/or immediate deportation because pregnancy is designated a 'health risk' (Pangsapa, 2007a).

Despite the high levels of exploitation and ongoing labor standards violations, many migrants still seek to organize with the assistance of local, regional and transnational labor organizations. Migrant workers have been, in a few cases, successfully able to file grievances against employers and demand their rights, even at the risk of being arrested and deported. Local community groups (such as the 'Mae Sot and Borderline Community'), NGOs and community-based organizations (such as the Young Chi Oo Burmese Workers' Association, Migrant Assistance Program, Burma Labor Solidarity Organization, Thai Labor Law Clinic, and the Thai Labor Campaign), international organizations (such as the International Labor Organization, International Rescue Committee, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch), and academic institutes (such as the Institute for Population and Social Research at Mahidol University, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, and the Asian Research Center for Migration at Chulalongkorn University) have all been invaluable sources of moral and legal support especially for Burmese migrants in areas of labor standards and advocacy, legal issues and welfare matters (Pangsapa, 2007a).

These organizations are seeking to improve conditions for migrant workers and at the same time are pushing to give migrants more citizenship rights under Thai law. However, with a military government now in place in Thailand, there may be more problems with accountability and legal redress than in the last 10 years. Meanwhile, migrants will still remain in limbo and can expect to face and endure worsened conditions of work and living. The military coup is likely to mean that redress against injustices will become more difficult and the suspension of civil liberties will make collective organization even more problematic. Migrants are not only trapped between a rock and a hard place but remain in 'limbo'. Likewise, citizens fleeing for their lives in conflict zones in other parts of the world most likely will be exploited in these ways by the receiving nations. In the case of Thailand, the key question then is how to secure citizenship and protection for migrant workers in a country that is at the end of the global supply chain and in a country where democratic principles are being undermined.

1. Preliminary fieldwork was supported by the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and the Baldy Centre for Law and Social Policy at the University at Buffalo in 2005.


Amnesty International (2005) 'Thailand: The Plight of Burmese Migrant Workers', Summary AI Index: ASA 39/01.

Hveem, P. (2004) 'Hidden Exploitation: Burmese Migrants in Thai Garment Factories: Hidden Sub-Contracting by Tammy Hilfiger Corporation and Other Brands, Mae Sot, Thailand' (April), Norwegian Church Aid.

Panam, A., Caouette, T., Kyaw Zaw, K.M. and Punpuing, S. (2004) Migrant Domestic Workers: From Burma to Thailand. Bangkok: Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University.

Pangsapa, P. (2007a, under review) 'Economic Development and the Politics of Cross-Border Migration in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region'.

Pangsapa, P. (2007b) Textures of Struggle: The Emergence of Resistance Among Garment Workers in Thailand. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Smith, M.J. and Pangsapa, P. (2007) Environment and Citizenship: Integrating Justice, Responsibility and Civic Engagement. London and New York: Zed Books.

Please address correspondence to: Piya Pangsapa, Women's Studies Department, 712

Clemens Hall, University at Buffalo - SUNY, UB North Campus, Buffalo, New York,

14260-4600, USA. [email:]

STEVE COHEN No One Is Illegal, UK

From a Worker to a Slave

(STEVE COHEN is an Immigration lawyer, activist, and Founding Member of No One Is Illegal, UK. He is author of the recently published Standing on the Shoulders of Fascism -From Immigration Controls to the Strong State [Trentham Books, 2006].)

The exploitation of the modern undocumented - those without any or sufficient immigration papers - breaks down the distinction between wage slavery and chattel slavery. In law the undocumented are prohibited from working. In practice, in order to eat, those not already in detention are driven into the slave-like conditions of the underground economy where they service the fast-food joints, garages, nursing homes, sweatshops and sex joints of our metropolitan centres - alongside the agricultural killing fields of what remains of a rural economy. Then when their work is no longer required, or when they are so exhausted by work that they have no energy to fight to stay, they are transported (deported) in accordance with the economic needs and national prejudices of their masters in the UK - to be returned into the hands of the masters from which they escaped in their country of origin.

The modern slave is caught within a double paradox. First, though their presence is unwanted their labour is needed. Second, although globalization has brought down borders for those whose presence the state is prepared to acknowledge, it has disproportionately strengthened immigration restrictions against those whose presence and whose labour it wants to control through a perpetual state of precariousness. The latter are the undocumented, the sans papiers, the illegal.

The Trades Union Congress in its pamphlet 'Overworked, Underpaid and Over Here', published in 2003, drew attention to the 'slavery or forced labour' of those undertaking undocumented work. Even the politicians who created this situation in the first place have been forced to recognize the slave-like status of the undocumented. David Davis MP, a leading British Tory, has written (Mail On Sunday, 15 February 2005) of 'the modern day slave trade' where the sans papier 'are kept outside the confines of society and beyond the reach of the law'. Of course for both Tory and Labour politicians the answer to this servitude is not the abolition of immigration controls. Rather it is a political answer that demands that the government 'clamp down on illegal immigrants' - one which enslaves the slave even further through the process of deportation.

In British immigration law, recent statutory measures have judicially sanctioned these slavery analogies even further. Under the latest legislation, the 2006 Immigration Asylum and Nationality Act, those about to be deported and incarcerated in removal centres will now be allowed to work. But this work will not attract the rewards of a free labourer but rather those of the prisoner. Section 59 of the Act specifically provides that the law relating to the national minimum wage shall not apply.

However, Section 10 of the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act represents an even more vivid example of the statutory confirmation of a slave-like existence. This makes provision of housing and other poor-law support for certain refugees to be conditional on their undertaking 'community services'. These are refugees whose claim has been rejected by the Home Office but are unable to return home because of circumstances beyond their control - because they are stateless or ill or (paradoxically in the case of a rejected asylum application) the country of return is too dangerous. Section 10 transforms asylum-seekers into slaves. It makes their labour compulsory, as refusal to participate will result in deprivation of housing and other support. When the Act was being debated in its committee stage in the House of Lords (15 June 2004), Lord Rooker encouraged voluntary sector groups to get involved in tendering for this slave labour. He also suggested that this compulsory refugee labour could be used for the maintenance of the refugee's own accommodation - which is a way local authorities and private companies can get otherwise run-down properties that they are unable to let updated for free. There has been successful resistance to the implementation of Section 10. In Liverpool the YMCA tendered for the scheme. But after outrage was expressed by the undocumented and their supporters the tender was withdrawn.

A combination of public scandals (such as the drowning at sea of Chinese cockle-pickers in February 2004) and protests by the undocumented themselves have led to statutory intervention. But this amounts in practice to tokenism or worse. Sections 57-60 of the 2003 Sexual offences Act (extending Section 145 of the 2002 Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act) outlaws trafficking for purposes of prostitution and Section 4 of the 2004 legislation extends this to trafficking for exploitation generally with a wide definition of 'exploitation' - including the provision of any service through 'force, threats or deception'. It is not clear if there have actually been any prosecutions under these sections. However, perhaps more to the point is the fact that those subject to the trafficking remain vulnerable to deportation. At the time of writing the British government is not even prepared to give its signature to the extremely limited European Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, which allows for temporary residence for those trafficked. As a consequence Sections 57-60 and Section 4 are in effect not so much about minimizing exploitation as maximizing immigration controls - and it is the vulnerability of the undocumented caused by controls that creates or reinforces the original relationships of slavery.

There is a direct similarity here with the 2004 Gangmasters (Licensing) Act following the tragedy of the Chinese drownings. The Act provides for a compulsory registration scheme for gangmasters within the agricultural and shellfish, and associated processing and packaging sectors. Again the Act provides no immunity against deportation for those trafficked and/or otherwise exploited by gangmasters. Indeed the Home Office appears to be hoping that registered gangmasters will become agents of immigration control enforcement by tracking down and reporting undocumented workers. This co-option into the immigration service of the overseers of labour is itself analogous to so called employer sanctions and the criminalization of bosses who employ workers without the correct immigration documentation. In the UK this policing by employers of the sans papiers has been in existence since Section 8 of the 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act.

The diminution of the undocumented to the status of the slave is an international phenomenon - as it must inevitably be given the combination of ever increasing globalization along with ever decreasing freedom of movement. Of course slavery in its most well-known period - that being the slave trade out of Africa - was premised on forced global movement. Today the modern slave has been once again been reduced to the Orwellian proportions of the non-person or the unperson. This has been achieved through the slave being redefined as illegal. In all other areas of the law it is the act that is illegal. In immigration law, the law of the slave, it is the person. This is why in many of the major metropolitan centres there are being created No One Is Illegal groups. In particular in the UK No One Is Illegal orientates towards the trade union and labour movement in demanding equality of wages and conditions and full immigration status for all. The group also argues that 'Underground railways providing rescue and freedom, or at least safety, such as existed for slaves escaping the plantations of

the American south or for Jews trapped in Nazi Europe, need to be developed in the twenty first century for those trapped in persecution or poverty or who wish to migrate for reasons of their choice'. All of this can be found in its publication Workers Control Not Immigration Controls, which is available on-line. There is being organized an international trade union conference based on the pamphlet in Liverpool on 24 March 2007. Further details can be obtained from info@ This is also the contact for hard copies of Workers Control Not Immigration Controls.

Please address correspondence to: Steve Cohen, No One Is Illegal, Bolton Socialist Club, 16 Wood Street, Bolton BL1 1DY, Manchester, UK [Email: raysteve@cohen70.]


International Labour Organisation, Switzerland

Building a Global Alliance against Forced Labour

(PATRICK BELSER is an Economist with the Special Action Programme against Forced Labour [SAP-FL] and the Policy Integration Department, at the International Labour Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland.)

In May 2005, the International Labour Organization (ILO) issued a report entitled 'A Global Alliance against Forced Labour', estimating that at least 12.3m people are still subject to some form of slavery-like situation in the 21st century.1 The ILO Convention, 1930 (No. 29) defines forced or compulsory labour as 'all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily'. Forced labour today includes domestic workers who are denied their freedom of movement, factory or plantation workers who cannot repay a manipulated debt to their employer or recruiter, or trafficked women who are forced into prostitution. These practices violate the human rights of the victims and usually lead to continued poverty, excessive hours of work, and lack of access to health care or social services. In light of this alarming situation, the ILO called for a global alliance to seek the eradication of all forced labour worldwide by 2015, thereby also contributing to the poverty reduction objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The following paragraphs briefly highlight two of the main aims of this global alliance.


First, there is a need to create stronger partnerships with the academic community, social partners and civil society to increase qualitative and quantitative research. Of all the so called core labour standards, forced labour is certainly the least studied. The literature on discrimination, child labour and freedom of association is all much larger. This may be due to the perception in academia

that forced labour belongs to a bygone era. Unfortunately, this is erroneous. In fact, basic research is still needed to address some essential questions:

What are the characteristics of forced labour? Forced labour involves coercion and is not just equivalent to low wages or poor working conditions, although these are often correlated with forced labour. The research conducted by the ILO over the last few years shows that coercion takes many different and sometimes subtle forms. Only a minority of victims are abducted or locked up. In most cases, coercion is applied by threatening the worker or his/her family, confiscating his/her identity documents, and/or manipulating an existing or imaginary debt. In many cases the initial consent of the worker is obtained through fraud and deception, and victims only find out later - when they discover the true nature and conditions of the activity - that they are not free to withdraw their labour. More work is needed, however, to better identify forced labour conditions and distinguish them from other forms of severe exploitation.

Where and why does forced labour exist? Forced labour is a global problem! Recent ILO studies have documented the existence of bonded labour in countries of South Asia, debt bondage in rural Latin America, human trafficking in Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as slavery-like situations in West Africa.2 In many cases, forced labour is motivated by economic exploitation and profits. Overall, it is estimated that global annual profits made by perpetrators amount to about US$44bn, mostly due to the non-payment of victims' wages. Other determinants of forced labour include legal loopholes, weak law enforcement and labour inspections, as well as the persistence of traditional customs. Poverty, unemployment and migration seem to be key factors of vulnerability. But much more research is needed to obtain a comprehensive mapping and clear understanding of the causes and consequences of forced labour, and to better assess the impact of globalization and labour market deregulation on these practices.

How much forced labour is there in the world? Extrapolating from a database with about 5000 reports, the ILO estimated that out of the 12.3m people in forced labour, a minority of 2.5m are in state-imposed forced labour (such as in Myanmar, for example, where villagers provide compulsory work for the military), and a majority of 9.8m are exploited in the private - and sometimes illegal - economy, either for sexual exploitation (1.4m to 2.0m) or for labour exploitation (7.8m to 8.4m). The ILO also estimates that 2.4m people are in forced labour as a result of internal and cross-border human trafficking. This compares with an estimate by the US Department of State, which focuses exclusively on international trafficking, that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked every year. However, as pointed out in a recent report by the US Government Accountability Office (US GAO, 2006), these estimates remain unsatisfactory and efforts to develop accurate estimates are currently frustrated

by the lack of country level data. In the future, better methodologies need to be developed to estimate forced labour and trafficking at the national and local level. This will help to better design and monitor the impact of policies.


The second and main purpose of the global alliance is to create partnerships and use the research in support of policy change at the global and at the national level. There is now a strong international consensus that forced labour is contrary to any notion of fair globalization or decent work, and that it should not be tolerated in the 21st century. This was expressed, in particular, in the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the subsequent creation of an ILO special action programme to combat forced labour (SAP-FL).

At the global level, the ILO deployed much energy to broaden the agenda from a focus on trafficking for sexual exploitation to the larger problem of forced labour. Key actors such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) or the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) now recognize that a substantial share of human trafficking occurs for nonsexual labour exploitation. The US Government's annual 'Trafficking in Persons Report' now also focuses more attention on involuntary servitude and on the 'enslavement' of people for purposes of labour exploitation. In the future, stronger partnerships need to be established with International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and other multilateral and bilateral cooperation agencies to ensure that their policy advice is coherent with the need to combat forced labour. One significant development in this area is the recent adoption by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, of a new set of performance standards on social and environmental sustainability, which requires IFC staff to verify that client companies do not use forced labour.

At the country level, forced labour is a complex and sensitive problem where confidence has to be built up carefully and gradually. This is why the ILO usually follows a strategy of gradual progression from research and awareness raising through to capacity-building, support for institutional and policy mechanisms against forced labour, and demonstration projects with direct support to victims. Throughout this cycle, much emphasis is placed on stimulating national ownership and on shaping innovative coalitions that build on - and go beyond - the ILO's tripartite system, which alone cannot eliminate all forced labour. Ultimately, it is the countries themselves - not the ILO - that will be able to eliminate contemporary forced labour. The ILO can act as a catalyst in the fight against forced labour, engaging as many national actors as possible, but not substituting for them. The last Global Report highlighted some examples of progress - such as Brazil and Pakistan. But much advocacy, dialogue and resources are still needed to convince the many governments and social partners around the world that forced labour is a scourge that must be urgently addressed and can be eliminated.

1. ILO, 'A Global Alliance against Forced Labour', Global Report under the Follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, Geneva.

2. These reports are available at the website:


US Government Accountability Office (2006) 'Human Trafficking: Better Data, Strategy, and Reporting Needed to Enhance U.S. Antitrafficking Efforts Abroad' (July). Washington, DC: GAO.

Please address correspondence to: Patrick Belser, International Labour Organisation, 4, Rte Des Morillons, CH - 1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland. [email:]


International Organization for Migration, Switzerland

Human Trafficking and Smuggling: The Ugly Faces of Globalization

(NDIORO NDIAYE is the Deputy Director General of the International Organisation for Migration in Geneva, Switzerland.)

Human smuggling and trafficking in persons for labour and sexual exploitation are some of the ugly faces of globalization and largely by-products of unmanaged global migration flows. Driven by poverty or economic hardship, social disruption or political instability at home, millions of people worldwide consider emigrating in search of better opportunities abroad. But because there are so few channels open for legal migration, many are tempted to use the 'services' of migrant smugglers or traffickers, who have no respect for their safety or fundamental rights. Deception, coercion, physical and mental violence are integral parts of this growing phenomenon.

When the International Organization for Migration (IOM) talks of smuggling, it refers specifically to the facilitation of illegal border crossing. Trafficking on the other hand entails a severe violation of the human rights of the victim by people involved in the trafficking process. Victims of trafficking are regularly exposed to deception, physical and psychological abuse, denied legal and labour rights and medical care, and are often forced into unwanted relationships of dependency with their traffickers.

Because of their clandestine nature, migrant trafficking and smuggling remain largely unreported crimes. It is nevertheless estimated that at least one million men, women and children are trafficked across international borders to be forced into prostitution, involuntary servitude or other forms of exploitation. Many more are trafficked within their own country, generating huge profits, estimated to be as high as US$12bn, for criminal networks who operate in many parts of the world with relative impunity.

One should also take into account the high human cost of irregular migration and the plight of undocumented migrants worldwide. Too many migrants continue to lose their lives trying to reach countries where they hope that they will find employment, most of the time in the informal sector of the economy. Many more are abandoned by smuggling networks in deserts, with no water, no food, no money and no travel documents. They remain marooned, in distress, without any possibility of either going on to their final destination or having the means to return home safely and in dignity.

To respond to this growing humanitarian emergency, IOM launched last year a humanitarian assistance programme to ensure that stranded and distressed migrants, abandoned to their fate, can return home on a voluntary basis. It is important to stress, however, that the resources of the programme are limited and cannot possibly help all those in need.

IOM's counter-trafficking activities worldwide have also grown accordingly. Over the past decade, we have successfully carried out some 300 counter-trafficking projects in more than 100 countries worldwide. As a result, we have provided direct assistance to more than 10,000 victims of trafficking.

IOM and its many partners worldwide provide assistance with shelter, physical and psychological health care, legal counselling, and voluntary return and reintegration assistance to empower victims once they have returned home. This reintegration component, which is all too often neglected, is crucial to avoid situations where former victims, because of their vulnerability, are re-trafficked. This assistance can take the form of vocational training, job referral, subsidized employment and micro-credits to allow former victims to resume income-generating activities. At the same time, victims are assisted in their psychological rehabilitation to overcome the trauma most have experience from being trafficked.

Like adults, children and minors are trafficked both nationally and internationally for sexual or labour exploitation. Many are also trafficked for adoption or are forced into begging or petty crime. We also know that children who have been trafficked into one form of exploitation will often be abused in another: trafficked for forced labour or begging, some may end up being sexually exploited.

IOM is currently engaged in numerous programmes to provide assistance to trafficked children who are exploited. For example in Ghana, IOM and its partners have rescued more than 530 children who were sold by impoverished parents into fishing communities established on the shores of Lake Volta.

In order to rescue the children from their exploiters, IOM provides fishermen with training and micro-credits, either to help them improve their fishing techniques and thereby forgo using the children in their fishing activities, or to engage in other income-generating activities. The parents or guardians of the rescued children also receive income generation support from IOM in order to prevent the children from being re-trafficked. Under this US government funded programme, all children are then enrolled in school or into vocational training programmes to ensure they have a future.

In its efforts to fight child trafficking, IOM is working with the Suzanne Mubarak Women's International Peace Movement and has recently received the backing of the Ricky Martin Foundation to combat sexual exploitation and the trafficking of children. In West Africa, IOM is also working with the Youssou Ndour Foundation to prevent migrant smuggling and trafficking. Their support and commitment to end child trafficking is very important to IOM's efforts to prevent, protect and assist trafficked children.

But the assistance provided to victims by IOM and its partners unfortunately only represents the tip of the iceberg. Many more victims require protection and assistance and more needs to be done to prevent trafficking. It is also crucial for law enforcement agencies to work together to crack down on those who organize and benefit from this crime. Until this is done, trafficking will continue to thrive because it is so lucrative.

Part of a long-term solution lies in the need for all sides to recognize and address the need for regular labour migration programmes, thereby reducing the temptation to turn to unscrupulous smugglers and traffickers.

Trafficking violates a number of international human rights conventions, as well as the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which came into force in September 2003 and the supplementary Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children which came into force in December 2003. The purpose of the Protocol is clearly to prevent and combat human trafficking, with special attention to the protection of women and children. It is also intended to promote cooperation among all States involved. More should be done to ensure countries ratify the Convention and Protocol.

At a national and international level, it is also crucial that prosecution and law enforcement efforts are stepped up to punish those who organize and benefit from human trafficking. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the victims of trafficking are not just considered as undocumented migrants, subject to forcible return, but as true victims of a serious crime in dire need of protection, medical and psychological support, return and reintegration assistance.

Finally, we strongly believe at IOM that responses to human trafficking and smuggling should be comprehensive and global because human trafficking and smuggling are global phenomena. It is high time the global community addresses the root causes of irregular migration to ensure people migrate out of choice and not out of necessity, as is all too often the case.

Please address correspondence to: Ms Ndioro Ndiaye, International Organization for Migration, 17 Route des Morillons, CH-1211, Geneva 19, Switzerland. [email:]