KUWAIT CITY, May 31, (Agencies): Kuwait was ranked 108th among 167 countries in terms of the number of people trapped in modern slavery with 18,200; while it ranked 25th in the estimated proportion of population in modern slavery at 0.467 percent, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index released by Walk Free Foundation Tuesday.
The report revealed that more than 45 million men, women and children globally are trapped in modern slavery, indicating this figure is far more than previously thought with two-thirds in the Asia-Pacific. Walk Free Foundation is an initiative set up by Australian billionaire mining magnate and philanthropist Andrew Forest in 2012 to draw attention to the modern slavery issue.
It compiled information from 167 countries with 42,000 interviews in 53 languages to determine the prevalence of the issue and government responses.
It suggested that there were 28 percent more slaves than estimated two years ago, a revision reached through better data collection and research methods. Modern slavery refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot leave because of threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception.
They may be held in debt bondage on fishing boats, against their will as domestic servants or trapped in brothels.
The report said that India had the highest number of people trapped in slavery at 18.35 million, while North Korea had the highest incidence (4.37 percent of the population) and the weakest government response.
Meanwhile on the ranking of other GCC countries, Saudi Arabia ranked 61st at 92,100 — 0.292 percent of the population, the United Arab Emirates ranked 88th at 37,000 — 0.404 percent of the population, Qatar ranked 91st at 30,300 — 1.356 of the population, Oman ranked 121st at 13,200 — 0.295 percent and Bahrain ranked 139th at 6,400 — 0.467 percent of the population.
In addition, five of the GCC countries are among the 10 countries whose governments have the least action by GDP as follows — Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. Other countries on the list are Singapore, Brunei, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.
The report said that despite their relative wealth, these countries can and should be doing more to address modern slavery problems within their borders.
The report also mentioned that in 2015, governments in the MENA region faced challenges responding to modern slavery but continued to take steps to increase public awareness, build and enhance shelter services, and improve national laws. Within the same year, Kuwait adopted a new law granting domestic workers enforceable labor rights, a key milestone considering migrant domestic workers constitute nearly a third of the country’s entire workforce. Low scores in other countries, such as Oman and Saudi Arabia, reflected limited political will to recognize the existence of all forms of modern slavery.
Most countries in the region had undertaken a basic human trafficking awareness campaign once in the past five years to educate the general public, such as the campaigns conducted in Kuwait’s largest mall.
Some 124 countries have criminalized human trafficking in line with the UN Trafficking Protocol and 96 have developed national action plans to coordinate the government response.
However, Forrest said more robust measures were needed. “We call on governments of the top 10 economies of the world to enact laws, at least as strong as the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, with a budget and capability to ensure organizations are held to account for modern slavery in their supply chains, and to empower independent oversight,” he said. “I believe in the critical role of leaders in government, business and civil society.
Through our responsible use of power, strength of conviction, determination and collective will, we all can lead the world to end slavery,” he added. In terms of absolute numbers, Asian countries occupy the top five for people trapped in slavery. Behind India was China (3.39 million), Pakistan (2.13 million), Bangladesh (1.53 million) and Uzbekistan (1.23 million). As a percentage of the population, Uzbekistan (3.97 percent) and Cambodia (1.65 percent) trailed North Korea, which the study said was the only nation in the world that has not explicitly criminalized any form of modern slavery.
The report also tracked actions and responses to the problem, with governments at the forefront including the United States, Australia, and a host of European nations, including Britain, Portugal and Norway. Those with the weakest action included Iran, Hong Kong and China. It cited Croatia, Brazil and the Philippines as the countries to take positive steps since the last Global Slavery Index in 2014, while praising India for making significant progress in addressing the problem.