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Friday, December 15, 2017

Modern slavery: SDGs & unending African malaise?

Recent exposure of internally African modern slavery markets calls for joining of forces beyond the African Union and European Union joint summit in Abidjan, writes REMMY NWEKE.
 
Preamble:
Historically, the slavery in Africa dates way back prior to 1793. A visit to the Badagry suburb in Lagos and slavery gateway, would leave any discerning mind a wet chronicle; how the community leaders then sold a human being for a ceramic cup and some for a bottle of hot-drink, equally known in the local parlance as foreign ‘gin’, yet another for a goldsmith design, that will not be of value either to be adorned at occasion or move about easily due to its weight.

From Badagry in Lagos to somewhere in Kumasi in Ghana, the story was definitely the same, then you find the slave trade outlet after agonizing stay and dehumanizing in the section of point of no return.

At first when I visited Badagry and Kumasi, my assumption was that we have and must put this kind of histories in the past and sojourn with the present in order to make progress as required, hence, when DigitalSENSE Business News made its debut a few years ago; the cover reflected on “How tech-giants promote child-labour” by some of the mobile device manufacturers in the same cheap labour with bottom design being to highlight the implications of that being a modern day slavery.

And as the world progressively develop in the areas and applications of the information and communication technologies (ICT), one thinks that such news as 21st century slavery or still modern slavery should have become a bygone over half a decade later.

40 million in modern slavery:
Defined as modern ways of exploitation ranging from forced prostitution and forced labour to forced marriage and forced organ removal, as well as human trafficking, debt bondage, descent-based slavery and child slavery, according to antislavery.org.

But latest data from a recent report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which came in two parts, showed that some 40 million people are currently in modern slavery and 152 million in child labour around the world, aged between 5 and 17, within the 2016 alone.
NaijaAgroNet also gathered that this new data revealed that the United Nations (UN's) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly on goal 8.7, will not be achieved unless efforts to fight modern slavery and child labour are radically augmented.

In addition, NaijaAgroNet reports that the new estimates indicated that women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery, accounting almost 29 million, or 71 per cent of the overall total. Women, they said, represent 99 per cent of the victims of forced labour in the commercial sex industry and 84 per cent of forced marriages. 

The research revealed that among the 40 million victims of modern slavery, about 25 million were in forced labour, and 15 million were in forced marriage. While child labour remain concentrated primarily in agriculture with 70.9 per cent, almost one in five child labourers work in the services sector, whereas estimated 11.9 per cent of child labourers work in industry. 

The ILO Director-General, Mr Guy Ryder, noted that the message his office sent with the latest research findings alongside its partners, remain very clear; “the world won’t be in a position to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals unless we dramatically increase our efforts to fight these scourges. These new global estimates can help shape and develop interventions to prevent both forced labour and child labour.” 

The Founding chairman, Walk Free Foundation, Mr Andrew Forrest, pointed to the fact that as a society humanity still have 40 million people in modern slavery, on any given day shames mankind. “If we consider the results of the last five years, for which we have collected data, 89 million people experienced some form of modern slavery for periods of time ranging from a few days to five years. This speaks to the deep seated discrimination and inequalities in our world today, coupled with a shocking tolerance of exploitation. This has to stop. We all have a role to play in changing this reality – business, government, civil society, every one of us.” 

Libya Slave Market exposed:
Then, came, the news on Libyan Slave Market in the northern Africa. The fact is that most Africans remain divided with some sympathizing with the victims who have to journey via the unpleasant route to Libya with hope of making it to Europe.

The alarming aspect is that most victims that got trafficked actually paid to be exported via Libya and often ended up being stranded without any food or money, hence some end up in doing drugs, prostitution and odd jobs after being sold between $400 and $600 in order to survive. From most stories, told by the surviving returnees, they paid initially between $1000 and $6000; for self-export into slavery.

As at the time of filing this report, some 6,000 Nigerians have been repatriated back home with everyone having ugly stories abound, while the Nigerian High Commission in Libya, said some Nigerians, even refused to go home.

Freely become slave:
NaijaAgroNet reports that another school of thought disputed if what is happening in Libya Slave Market is precisely a slave trade? According to the proponents of this thought, some of the victims voluntarily paid about $6,000 each, to reach the shores of Libya for onward movement to Italy and other European cities, where they look forward to being secured and revel in a so-called better life ... regrettably, “From there they became victims of their own choices. Nobody came into Nigeria or Ghana or Cameroon to pick them as slaves; rather they went there by themselves and with their own money, but their ‘Points men’ and ‘points women’ had invariably other ideas in their heads.

Also, the proponents considered these victims as not more than slaves who are only fit to work menial jobs in the family homes of Europeans, and for that their traffickers tagged them with the price of $400 each for the Europeans to buy and herd them to their homes for domestic chores!
These proponents insisted that a quick conversion of $6,000 into Nigerian Naira will tell you that these "slaves" were never poor people by any equation, because the amount here is about N2.6 million spent by each "slave" to freely become "slaves" in Europe, and by simple reckoning, poor people have no such cash in any part of the world.

This school of thought was saddened on the so-called modern slavery story, because evidences have shown that in some communities in Nigeria, “it is the parents or families that raise such huge sums for their children, especially for daughters, to go to Italy or other European cities to become sex slaves and send large sums of dollars home. At best, the above narration is not slavery since it was not forced one; rather a deliberate consent to be sold into slavery."

Whereas appreciating the United States-based Cable News Network (CNN), they posited, it's good that CNN broke the story of this self-induced slavery, and it's also good that Nigeria's federal government sent in aircrafts and brought back home her own contingent of ‘rich slaves.’

Can AU & EU summit mitigate?
This story, directly or indirectly influenced the outcome of a summit of African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) in Cote d’ Ivore capital, Abidjan, setting a goal of immediate repatriation of some 3,800 migrants languishing in a camp near Tripoli. They also insisted on stamping out horrific abuse of African migrants, some of them Nigerians, in Libya where thousands are suffering in a vast, lawless territory. Just as head, AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat noted, there are hundreds of thousands more estimated about “400,000 to 700,000,” who are stranded. Yet, experts pointed out a daunting array of hurdles including from extracting migrants in perilous situations, to giving them incentives to stay back when they return home.

For the International Organisation for Migration Europe Director, Eugenio Ambrosi had told AFP by phone from Brussels. “It is a step in the right direction. It is a little bit too much to think it will solve the slavery issue, but it would definitely mitigate (it) to some extent.” Emphasising that the summit also showed there was now ‘international watchdog pressure’ that could be brought to bear on the criminal gangs but it must be ‘sustained.’

The drive proclaimed at a meeting on the summit sidelines organised by French President Emmanuel Macron, which gathered eight other EU and African countries as well as the AU, EU and United Nations representatives; hinting that the UN-backed Libyan government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj had identified and granted access to the worst camps to enable the returns of people who want to go home.

Dealing with traffickers & punishment:
Additionally, the Macron group decided to work with a task force, involving the sharing of Police and intelligence services, to “dismantle the networks and their financing and detain traffickers,” he said, even as they pledged to freeze the assets of identified traffickers, while AU will set up an investigative panel and the UN could take cases before the International Court of Justice.

While saluting this as progress, commentators pointed to big practical problems, which begin with the need for African countries to respond rapidly to the need for travel documents so that evacuees can leave quickly.

“Something has to be done for people in this situation, obviously. But from an operational and logistical point of view, the evacuations are very complicated,” said Matthieu Tardis, a researcher at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris. Adding, “Doing it on a major scale raises the question of cooperation with the Libyan authorities and of their authority across the country. On top of that, it’s hard to see how you can walk into unofficial camps and other places to evacuate migrants, especially when they are controlled by traffickers.”

Unofficial camps:
Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord is opposed by a rival administration in the east of the country, backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar. Just as there is the question of support for those who go home — an influx that adds to a poor country’s economic and social burden.

For Yves Roland Houeto, the coordinator of an Ivorien Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called the Pan-African Association of Children and Young Workers (AACYW), said he saw no signs West African governments were ready to offer serious economic prospects to keep the young at home.

Governments cannot just offer returning migrants some money and supplies when they land back in their country’s airport. As said by Houeto “As soon as their supplies and money run out, they will leave again,” noting that in Grand Bassam, a coastal city of 80,000 people less than an hour’s drive from Abidjan, that every month, around 10 young people leave the area for Europe.

Summary:
Of immediate commendation must be given to government and people of Uganda for accepting to habour some of the victims from Libya, pending their final repatriation to their home countries. And given the scenes above, there is a lot to be done by the governments and African Union Commission, especially in enthroning good governance in most African countries.

Until such a time, the situation in Southern Cameroun needed to be nipped on the bud. It will also send the signal that AUC is ready alongside the sub-regional organisations, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Walk Free Foundation, and International Organization for Migration (IOM) to work the talk. Of course, with the support of European Union, so as make the youth see the reality on ground rather than propaganda and the time to start was like yesterday, that is, if we intend to make inroads into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all; in combination of 8.7 – which centres on forced labour.

Therefore, it’s imperative to agree with the earlier submission that unless efforts to fight modern slavery and child labour are jointly tackled and radically too to complement each other, any effort towards this may be in vain.

And time to start is now, after all, because, at this time it cannot be said to be a stitch in time that saves nine, but efforts at remedying  the situation is and must be commendable, whilst determinations to make the required change on modern slavery, must start from the homes and immediate societies, backed by good governance as its bedrock.

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