Workers Protecting Communities During COVID-19 are at Increased Risk of Exploitation

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In a recent presentation on preventing Forced Labour and Trafficking, former UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and Senior Advisor to the Santa Marta Group, Kevin Hyland OBE, gave an update on this ‘preventable’ crime that affects 40 million people in context with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In light of this unprecedented global challenge, the pandemic has changed the way we live and, in some cases, led to a higher risk of modern slavery:

“Crucial in protecting communities through the pandemic have been those in health services, care homes, agriculture, fishing, food packing, transport, construction and cleaning. All these professions are high on the list of jobs where exploitation takes place.

“Their contribution has received accolades from royalty, prime minsters and presidents alike, yet exploitation has continued and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Refering to a criminal industry that generates over $150 billion per year in criminal benefit, Mr Hyland said the trend of using human lives as commodities “is present in almost every nation in the world despite many global commitments for its eradication.”

But this is not just a challenge for governments and world leaders, how we as individuals buy and consume is also a key factor:

“Everyday our lives interact with products of exploitation and suffering. To suggest this crime is avoidable can sometimes be met with adversity and a view that providing work without exploitation is complex, unrealistic and virtually impossible, meaning running a business that is ‘tainted’ by profits of modern slavery has become the norm. This should shock business leaders, the models they lead may constitute the fertile breeding ground for this abuse to proliferate.”