Past and Present Day Slavery
By admin March 25, 2019

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Today is International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade to honor and remember those who suffered at the hands of the brutal slavery system. The theme for this year is “Remember Slavery: The Power of the Arts for Justice.” Art is a powerful tool to express past struggles, highlight the ongoing injustices and celebrate the achievement of people of African descent.

An exhibition “From Africa to the New World: Slavery in New York” is on display in the UN Visitors Lobby from 8 March to 8 April 2019. The exhibit will showcase the impact the Transatlantic Slave Trade had on persons of African descent, both free and enslaved, who were living in New York City during the 17th and 18th centuries.  Christopher Cozier from Trinidad and Tobago will be the keynote speaker in the afternoon at the UN General Assembly Hall. In the evening from 6:00 to 8:30 pm, the Remember Slavery Program will host its annual cultural and culinary event with live music in the Visitor Lobby. But, these commemoration events are happening while slavery still exists.

We have to remember the lives of the past and examine the conditions in which millions of people were sold into bondage, and the everlasting effects of racial discrimination. There are millions of more people living in various forms of slavery today. According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, there were 40.3 million people suffering from modern-day slavery in 2016, including 24.9 million in forced labor and 15.4 million in a forced marriage. In late 2017, videos surfaced of men appearing to be sold into slavery in Libya. Migrants from other African countries were detained in Libya as they tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe. Last December, a UN report described how migrants in Libya were facing “unimaginable horrors,” including extrajudicial killings, sexual abuse, torture, slavery, and arbitrary detention.

The UN Refugee Agency is troubled by reports of the use of force against protestors at the Sikka detention center in Tripoli, Libya. It is estimated that more than 400 asylum-seekers are at the detention center being held in extremely dire conditions for months with no solutions. Around 50 people were reportedly injured when police moved in to end the protest. Currently, there are 5,700 refugees and migrants in detention, and 4,100 are a concern to UNHCR as having international protection needs. UNHCR evacuated 128 refugees to Niger on 4 March, bringing the total number of those evacuated to 3,303. One person detained in inhumane conditions arbitrarily is one person too many, and there are various forms of captivity that people experience happening at this moment.

Modern slavery is viewed as an intractable hidden problem but acknowledging that slavery still exists is the first step to tackling this issue. Mainstreaming anti-slavery efforts should have the same level of attention as anti-poverty efforts because slavery touches all corners of the globe. Every person, company and government can do more to become more knowledgeable about forced labor in supply chains, vulnerable children held captive as sex slaves and forced child marriage and other forms of human trafficking. Slavery has a basis rooted in economic exploitation and exerting power over other people, and the liberation of people has to engage and hold slave owners accountable. Today is the day to remember the atrocities that occurred with the Transatlantic Slave Trade but also a reminder that it is necessary for the world to continue to work together to end present-day slavery as well.


For more information:

The Transatlantic Slave Trade And The Modern Day Slavery

At least 50 migrants wounded in Libya detention facility following protest: UN

Refugees protest conditions in Libyan detention as resettlement solutions falter

Change minds of millions of slaveholders to end modern slavery: expert




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