I’m angry. I know angry isn’t good, but I am! FSCI prevents modern slavery and transforms lives in Southeast Europe. There’s not a week that goes by without my heart being rent, yet again, as I engage with the lives of people who seem to have had everything bad thrown at them. And I know where they’re headed if FSCI and organisations like us don’t get in first. They are a hair’s breadth away from being deceived, tricked, terrorised, degraded and forced to do things they don’t want to do. Slavery is alive and well in our modern world. An estimated 40 million people worldwide are trapped in it right now.
And it’s big business. Slavery today is the second most lucrative criminal activity in the world. Vulnerable people are being trafficked into slavery at an increasing rate. Legalised prostitution and the desire for super-cheap labour and low-cost consumer goods are dragging people into lives of degradation and despair on a scale not seen before. It’s true. No exaggeration!
Recent events in the US and UK tell me plenty of other people are getting angry about slavery too, angry enough to get out and do something. That’s good. We need action. But to see lasting change, we have to get beyond things that can be done in the heat of the moment. We need the thousands upon thousands who’ve mobilised to say to themselves “I’m not dropping this one”.
When push comes to shove, the real question is going to be did we get angry enough? Slavery is alive and well in our modern world. Today. Make no mistake. It’s engulfing 40 million people! That’s a huge number, for goodness sake! Make some noise! (I said I was angry).
So what can you do?
Here comes the hard bit. We have to find out more about what we buy, from tomatoes to tops or tech. We need to tell the people who sell us the stuff that we want them to make sure there’s no labour exploitation involved. And to insist they prove it, not just say it. And when they tell us we might have to pay more for that, we may have to be willing to stump up the extra money.
We are going to have to talk about the difficult things we don’t like to face. It’s estimated that over one million German men buy sex on any given day. A buzzing city like Berlin has more than 600 brothels to choose from. A large number of the women involved come from Eastern Europe. Most grew up in poverty. And the people making the money are looking for more where they came from.
And we are going to have to help the countries where the risk factors are highest. Help them, not blame them. Tackling the poverty, reducing the marginalisation, increasing children’s access to and participation in education, creating job opportunities, protecting the most vulnerable all cost money, but they are all doable.
As the publishers of the Global Slavery Index put it, “we must all hold ourselves and each other to account for ending the misery of our fellow human beings”. Are you angry enough?