UK modern slavery risk rises

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
15 August 2017

The risk of modern slavery in the UK has risen from ‘low’ to ‘medium’ in an index.

Verisk Maplecroft’s Modern Slavery Index (MSI), now in its second year, showed the UK had slipped because of “gaps in the UK’s labour inspectorate”.

Across the EU, 20 countries have seen a rise in risk, including Germany, which like the UK has moved from ‘low’ to ‘medium’.

The five EU countries posing the highest risk are Romania, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Bulgaria – key entry points for migrants, who are “extremely vulnerable to exploitation”.

The MSI, which assesses 198 countries on the strength of laws, effectiveness of enforcement and severity of violations, found Romania and Italy have the worst reported violations in the EU, including severe forms of forced labour such as servitude and trafficking.

Estimates suggest that more than 100,000 migrants have entered Europe by sea in 2017, 85% of whom have landed in Italy.

Sam Haynes, senior human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said: “The migrant crisis has increased the risk of slavery incidents appearing in company supply chains across Europe.

“It is no longer just the traditional sourcing hotspots in the emerging economies that businesses should pay attention to when risk-assessing their suppliers and the commodities they source.”

Turkey suffered the second largest drop in its ranking, after Romania, caused by an influx of refugees from the Syrian war and the country’s restrictive work permit system, which forces people into the informal workforce. Policing labour violations was no longer a priority for the government, said the report.

“Over the last year several large brands sourcing from Turkish textile factories have been associated with high profile incidents of child labour and slavery,” said Verisk Maplecroft. “Companies importing agricultural goods, such as hazelnuts and cherries, are also exposed to a high risk of complicity with forced labour abuses.”

The chief Asian manufacturing hubs of Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand all feature in the ‘extreme’ or ‘high risk’ categories.

India, however, has improved more than any other country in the index, moving from 15th worst to 49th, though severe forms of slavery are common in construction, brick kilns, garment production, manufacturing and farming.

North Korea, Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Iran, Libya, Eritrea and Turkmenistan are rated as posing the highest risk of slavery.

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