50 million people worldwide trapped in modern slavery, the maritime industry is not spared

Unfortunately, slavery is not a thing of the past. According to global estimates of modern slavery, around 50 million people are currently trapped in situations of modern slavery, including forced labor and forced marriage. This now equates to 1 in 150 people and represents an increase of 10 million people since the last report was published in 2017, with women, children, unprotected migrant workers and people already in vulnerable situations being the most affected.

Modern slavery encompasses any form of human trafficking, slavery, servitude or forced labor and is a lucrative practice; it is the third most profitable crime in the world. The damning report documents that the damage caused by the pandemic and international conflicts, such as in Ukraine, has significantly increased vulnerability to exploitation and the number of potential victims of trafficking.

The risk of modern slavery in the global shipping industry is particularly sensitive and occurs due to various factors.

Seafarers sometimes come from countries with inadequate records and ineffective policing of human and labor rights abuses and related corrupt activities. The unique feature of flag state structures also creates a fragmented system of regulatory neglect and can restrict the effective enforcement of decent working conditions on board ships.

Since 2006, under the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), the promise of decent working conditions, housing, food and medical care, among other standards, has been in force. However, the nature of employment means that seafarers face isolated working conditions and often depend on their employers for access to communication with the outside world, often making seafarers vulnerable to operation.

The report compiled by the International Labor Organization (ILO), Walk Free and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) offers several recommended actions, including improving and enforcing labor laws and inspections and ending forced labor imposed by the state. As well as more robust measures to address forced labor and trafficking in businesses and supply chains, expand social protection and address the increased risk of forced labor trafficking for migrant workers.

Recently in the UK, the International Commission on Defense and Relations inquiry into the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ‘fit for use in the 21st century’, highlighted highlight the failings of States with respect to current human rights protections at sea.

The House of Lords received a weak response from the UK government after specifically highlighting several human rights at sea issues, including urging the government to define its human rights obligations at sea, including including human trafficking and modern slavery.

The government did not support the position that “human rights apply at sea as they apply on land”. Instead, he remarked: “The government recognizes that internationally, the jurisdiction applicable to victims of human rights violations at sea can be difficult to determine. It is possible to clarify where victims can lodge complaints or complaints in the UK. »

In short, it avoids many of the fundamental human rights issues raised by the UK Upper House.

Modern slavery is a heinous crime that often uproots individuals from their families, trapping victims in a cycle of abuse at the hands of employers empowered by impunity. It has no place in the 21st century.

Human Rights at Sea will continue to work alongside other civil society organizations, state authorities, UN agencies and business interests to advocate for an end to modern slavery in the maritime environment.

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Reference: Human Rights at Sea

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