UN Sanctions Slave Traders

The ITUC has welcomed the imposition of unprecedented sanctions by the United Nations on six people, four Libyan and two Eritrean, for trading in slaves.

Those sanctioned include a commander from the Libyan coast guard, and at least one other with close links to fundamentalist terror groups. The sanctions include a global travel ban and freezing of the assets of the six.

“The slave trade is a $150 billion dollar a year business. These sanctions will help to disrupt major trafficking operations run by people who have become wealthy from some of the most despicable activities imaginable. We congratulate the UN Security Council on this decision, which shows that multilateralism works at a time of global political fragmentation, and hope that it will not end with these six individuals. Nor should it end with these sanctions. Slave traders should face the full force of criminal justice,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

This case illustrates how the dehumanisation of migrants and refugees leads to horrific abuse while no one in the international community accepts responsibility to end it. The current incapacity of the government in Libya to govern the country creates a climate of complete impunity. It has become a hub for smuggling and trafficking of migrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East to Europe and elsewhere. Over 3,000 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2017, while the slave traders continued to amass huge wealth, sustaining criminal enterprises and fueling armed conflicts.

The increasing demonisation of migrants and refugees renders them especially vulnerable to the slave trade, and those who prey on that vulnerability must not be allowed to continue to act with impunity.

With 40 million people trapped in forced labour, a major international push is needed to combat modern slavery. The ILO Protocol of 2014 provides a comprehensive legal framework fit for purpose. It needs urgent global ratification, followed by action. The Global Compacts on Migration and on Refugees to be adopted at the end of the year must provide impetus for a human-centered approach.

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