21-36 Million Slaves in the “Modern” World – Did You Know about Them?

This January it’s Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness and Protection Month. Human trafficking is modern day slavery and is something that most of us have heard about. In 2014 The Global Slavery Index estimated that there are 21-36 million people worldwide living in slavery. This is in spite of human rights legislation – The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, which comes under The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the criminalisation of human trafficking in 90% of countries worldwide (UNODC, 2014). Human trafficking is a widespread severe problem which moves within and across regions nationally and internationally:

The crime of trafficking in persons affects virtually every country in every region of the world. Between 2010 and 2012, victims with 152 different citizenships were identified in 124 countries across the globe (UNODC, 2014).

So, who are these people? How old are they? What work are they forced into and by whom? Well here’s the lowdown on the issue of modern slavery with some key facts from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) latest report (2014). Of course though, due to its nature we can’t know the real number and nature for sure of people living in this hell…

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  1. 49% of human trafficking victims are women (21% are girls, 18% are men and 12% are boys) (2011) but the number of women being trafficked is decreasing. 
  2. The number of detected child victims is increasing1 in 3 victims of human trafficking is a child. If you break that down by gender – 2 out of 3 child victims are girls.
  3. A greater number of male victims are being detected.
  4. Forms of exploitation include: sexual exploitation, forced labour, servitude and “slavery like” work and organ removal.
  5. Most victims are victims of sexual exploitation (mostly women) but other forms are increasing.
  6. Forced labour accounted for 40% of trafficking victims between 2010-2012 and is increasing. Forced labour includes: domestic work, textile production, cleaning and domestic work, catering and working in restaurants, construction, manufacturing and textile production.
  7. “Mixed exploitation” other than just sexual exploitation or forced labour includes for the purpose of: committing crime, begging, making pornography (including online pornography), benefit fraud, baby selling, illegal adoption, forced marriage, armed combat and for rituals.
  8. Females are mostly exploited for sexual purposes (79%), whilst for males it’s forced labour (83%) (2010-12).
  9. Children for example are used as child soldiers and beggars. Child trafficking is common in Sub-Saharan Africa. Children are being used as soldiers in Central and West Africa.
  10. In the Middle East and North Africa nearly all victims detected are adults.
  11. 1/3 victims is exploited in their own country of citizenship.
  12. In the Americas, South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific forced labour is the most common reason behind human trafficking.
  13. In Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Western and Central Europe most victims are exploited for sexual purposes.
  14. Transnational trafficking makes up almost 25% of all trafficking flows and isn’t as common as domestic or intraregional trafficking.
  15. When traffickers traffic people abroad – they are usually their own fellow citizens.
  16. 72% of convicted traffickers are men. 
  17. Proportionally, women are convicted for trafficking more than most other crimes.

You hear about it in the news: prostitution in Europe, domestic servants in the Middle East, forced labour in Asia but there are many complex patterns and changes in trends. We need to raise awareness and get our voices heard to say “no” to human trafficking and “yes” to change.

Campaigning and awareness raising

So what can we do to get involved with the fight against human trafficking? Here’s a few tips:

  • Raise awareness online – blog, tweet and use hashtags. Free the Slaves have produced Facebook and Twitter cover photos you can download and upload on your social media profiles and are promoting the following hashtags: #freetheslaves #endslavery #humantrafficking
  • Donate to and/or volunteer with relevant NGOs such as Free the Slaves, Stop The Traffik and Polaris Project. You can find a list of other relevant NGOs here
  • Sign the 50 For Freedom Campaign petition
  • Take part in Stop the Traffick’s campaigns and check out their tips
  • Those of you in the USA can email members of Congress.
  • If you’re in the UK write to your local MP and check out APPG
  • If you’re elsewhere – write to local authorities/organisations/MPs
  • Sign one of many petitions available online on Change.org
  • Donate your old phones to Phones4Freedom to help anti-trafficking activists and survivors
  • Check out the other tips available online here
  • Get creative and come up with fundraising and awareness raising events

As always – get noticed, get heard and fight to #endslavery and #freetheslaves! No to #humantrafficking

Salam!

Information Source:

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (2014) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 

Free the Slaves also have a free factsheet which you can download from their website.

*Images are re-published under a Creative Commons licence

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Expat or immigrant? – Immigrant. Why everybody should experience living abroad

Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes.” Each and every persons’ life experiences are unique but until you’ve experienced something it can be difficult (if not impossible) to understand. Even though no two experiences are the same, sometimes you have to try and put yourselves in that person’s shoes. In the case of migrants and refugees this can sometimes be difficult yet all the more important.

There’s a lot of anti-immigrant, anti-refugee discourse around at the moment concerning undocumented migrants, the recent refugee crisis and EU migrants. Lots of people form unsavoury opinions without even any direct experience. Well, I’ve been living in Spain now for over a year. I’ve spent time living for certain periods in a few countries. I’m passionate about social justice, human rights, migrants’ rights and about fighting racism and religious discrimination. I want to talk about my experiences here in Spain as a “white” Caucasian, British (EU) Muslim migrant married to a non-EU, North African Muslim who is a migrant himself and what we’ve witnessed in our time here. There are a lot of labels there. Whilst labels can be counterproductive, essentialist, and encourage both discrimination and narrow views on identity, in order to uncover the different layers of discrimination here in Spain, you have to pick out the different markers of identity and socio-cultural-economic “classification”.

Here’s my experiences of being an immigrant in Spain, of what I’ve lived, learnt, heard and witnessed (of course I can’t speak for everyone or overgeneralise):

  1. As a non-national or “non-native”, the factors which distinguish you and lead to the most discrimination are: colour, economic status, religion and nationality (which incorporates culture).
  2. Racism/discrimination can be multi-faceted and you may sit between communities. I found myself affected by what I believe to be mild Islamophobia yet almost no racism based on my culture or nationality. I tried to compare experiences, histories and stereotypes; trying to judge and understand my situation in relation to Moroccans as North-African and Muslim and with non-Muslim “Western European” migrants here in Spain.
  3. A lot of people really don’t know the difference between an economic/social migrant and a refugee or asylum seeker – this is a political tool and drives racism and stereotypes.
  4. Integration is a TWO WAY process – you have to put in to get out. Locals, in the name of humanity and collectivity; welcome others! Build bonds and collective identities – crush stereotypes and misconceptions. Likewise for non-locals, if you don’t want to put in – why are you there? If you’ve got no choice – remember this: it’s a duty/blessing to give something back. In doing so you may counteract unfair, unjust racial, religious and cultural discrimination and stereotypes and open up opportunities, relations and change mentalities.

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Unfortunately, there’s negativity here: Muslim women being physically and verbally abused (“Moor”, “terrorist”), poverty, destitution… I see destitute migrants, drinking away their sorrows, sleeping on mattresses. Yes, this also happens with locals  but with immigrants is unfortunately common. I’ve also experienced for myself being asked in interviews for English teaching positions on a few occasions about my headscarf, knowing that I’m a native English speaker (not just “British”) – which adheres to their “standard” or “ideal English teacher” persona. Some interviewers added that it wasn’t an issue. Some I know were genuinely curious or unperturbed but one lady added: “What’s your religion?” and no, this wasn’t in a post-interview chat. Although I can’t prove anything, it’s not a good feeling. Some employers simply tell other Muslims that they’d have to take their scarves off. On top of this, I’ve also seen a jobless, homeless Moroccan woman (both a mother and wife) asking for help, running from domestic violence and neglect, pregnant with young children and each with full legal residency, being told there’s “nothing they can do”, being sent one from office to the next, till her and her children end up on a boat home. Yet, despite all of this I have also witnessed the kindness of Spanish police in such situations and of Spanish neighbours, colleagues, parents, students and general members of the public. Each country has its own inner issues – here there are economic struggles – but there is a wider socio-cultural issue that is void of economic reasoning: socio-cultural exclusion.

Multiculturalism appears to be non-existent here. There’s no real sense of “collective identity” – not if you’re Muslim or Arab at least from what I can see. Neither does there appear to be a great appreciation of other cultures – besides tucking in to a plate of couscous or other “world-cuisine” and despite all the Arab-Moor history in Spain in what was once known as Al-Andalus. I’ve heard otherwise but it seems rare, even despite the positive safety and peace of many migrants living here to counteract it (I can’t speak for refugees/asylum seekers unfortunately). What I stand by is that you have to put in to get out – especially when living in such societies. Yes, without a doubt, migrants should be welcomed but on the other hand, when you see the mosque closed during Ramadan – that’s a missed opportunity right there. That’s your chance to reach out to impoverished or curious people here. Budgets are stretched at both ends but that shouldn’t hold back local and migrant communities in reaching out to each other. In terms of Spaniards, apart from Latin Americans and “typical Westerners/Europeans” and the odd exception, I’ve so far only really seen locals “socialising” with alcoholic destitute migrants (one being Kenyan) who must be in similar situations to themselves. On the other side of the fence, I’ve seen those which appear to have turned their back on their own cultural norms or have come across as so assimilated they were unrecognisable as North African or Muslim. You don’t have to drop your own cultural values. Regarding religious values, you’d be a hypocrite in doing so. A Muslim doesn’t need to sell alcohol or ham to be accepted. I stand by my words: Spain – like many European countries but unlike the UK in terms of majority in my opinion – has a reputation of being Islamophobic and racist. Indeed, there are issues regarding colour, nationality/”race”/culture and Islam but not as much as I’d envisaged. There is hope but things do need to change.

Helping hand shakes another in an agreement

It’s through witnessing, feeling and living all these moments that you see and feel what others go through. I’ve always said to my husband: “Racists should go abroad and see it’s not easy”, “You can’t hate people you’ve met and really know – people need to travel”. Indeed, some of the friendliest Spanish folk I’ve met here are elderly Spaniards who used to live in Morocco. They knew it on a personal level – they’d grown up there, they’d made Moroccan friends. So, if you’re up for an adventure, go abroad and see what life is like for others. Go “native” – don’t go “expat” or “tourist” in your bubble of sun soaked fellow countrymen or tourists. Put yourself out there. If you’re staying put, reach out to the migrant and refugee community. It’s not easy for them. Build bridges. We’re all human. A smile can and does go a long way. If you’re living abroad, reach out to the local community!

Salam!

Image credits:

Images are re-published under a Creative Commons licence

Interfaith solidarity is not about stripping Muslim women of their identity

#Muslim, #British, #hijabi and proud. Straight to the point on what interfaith is and isn’t.

*Feature image: shared under a Creative Commons licence

exiledheroine

Today, more than ever, anti-Islamic rhetoric has been widely accepted in the media and the result of this rhetoric has been violence and hatred against Muslims, primarily Muslim women who wear the hijab. The hijab, first and foremost, is a representation of Muslim identity. Many Muslim women in America have reported physical assaults and verbal abuse as a result of the popular Islamic bigotry expressed in the media. It is challenging for us Muslim women to come up on top and show our strength against these powerful figures who continue to belittle us, and it is articles like As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity that was recently published in The Washington Post that is backpedaling the progress Muslim women have been trying to make over the course of these troubling times.

There are many problematic assertions Asra Q…

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