World News in Brief: $236 billion a year profit from forced labour, Senegal election update, peacekeepers in Lebanon

World News in Brief: $236 billion a year profit from forced labour, Senegal election update, peacekeepers in Lebanon

Forced labour is happening all over the world and it’s earning criminal gangs an astonishing $236 billion a year – $64 billion more than a decade ago, UN researchers said on Tuesday.

In an alert, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said that this increase had been fuelled by the growing number of people forced to work illegally, but also by higher profits.

ILO senior research officer Federico Blanco told journalists in Geneva that traffickers and criminals make close to $10,000 per victim, around $1,700 more than they did in 2014.

“The human toll is also incalculable. These illegal profits represent wages, resources, livelihoods, effectively stolen from workers”, he said.  

“This not only affects the workers themselves, but also their families and the flow of migrant remittances, disrupting entire communities.”

The profits from forced labour are highest in Europe and Central Asia – at $84 billion - followed by Asia and the Pacific ($62 billion), the Americas ($52 billion), Africa ($20 billion), and the Arab States ($18 billion).

Lucrative sex trade

Forced sex work generates more than two-thirds of profits, even though it only involves around one in four of the overall number of people forced to work illegally.

This is because exploiters make more than $27,000 a year from each illegal sex worker, which is far more than the average $3,600 in profits generated by most other forms of forced labour.

Senegal: UN experts call for fundamental freedoms ahead of elections

Independent human rights experts on Tuesday urged authorities in Senegal to ensure that political parties, journalists and human rights defenders can exercise their right to freedom of association, assembly and expression during the upcoming electoral period.

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The Human Rights Council-appointed experts have previously raised concerns with the Government about the prosecution and detention of opposition leaders and their supporters.

They also welcomed the release of over 500 detainees last week which included opposition leaders Ousmane Sonko and Bassirou Diomaye Diakhar Faye, although they only have days left to campaign before the presidential ballot on 24 March 2024.

‘Inclusive and meaningful’ poll essential

“We urge authorities to uphold the fundamental freedoms necessary for an inclusive and meaningful democratic process, and end restrictions on public freedoms that the country has witnessed in recent years,” the experts said.  

They noted that Senegal had seen “unprecedented mass protests” across the country since March 2021, in response to the arrest and trial of opposition leaders.

“Senegalese authorities appear to have resorted to frequent restrictions on public freedoms, bans on protests and temporary internet shutdowns,” the experts said, pointing to the negative impact on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations by members of the political opposition and civil society.

“Arrests and bans on demonstrations are dangerously restricting the civic and political space that is an essential part of any democratic society,” the experts said.

“We urge Senegalese authorities to create conditions conducive to the exercise of public freedoms, and in particular the rights of peaceful assembly, association and expression during the electoral period”, they concluded.

The Blue Line, the boundary between Lebanon and Israel.
Hugh Macleod/IRIN
The Blue Line, the boundary between Lebanon and Israel.

Lebanon: ‘Deep concern’ over continued hostilities

Over to Lebanon, where the UN Special Coordinator for the country on Tuesday voiced deep concern over the escalation in the exchanges of fire across, and increasingly beyond, the Blue Line – the demarcation line separating Lebanese and Israeli armed forces.

Briefing the Security Council in a closed-door meeting, Joanna Wronecka emphasized the need to restore calm, urging compliance with international humanitarian law to protect civilians.  

She highlighted the danger posed by incomplete implementation of resolution 1701 to Lebanon, Israel, and regional stability, calling for a political process addressing root causes of conflict.

“I have reminded relevant stakeholders of all parties about their obligation to comply fully with international humanitarian and human rights law, namely to protect civilians,” she said, according to a news release issued by her Office (UNSCOL)

Adopted in 2006, the resolution among other points called for the full cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah, deployment of the Lebanese armed forces in southern Lebanon and the establishment of a demilitarized zone between the Blue Line and the Litani River.

UNIFIL marks 46th anniversary

Also on Tuesday, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) marked its 46th anniversary, renewing calls for full demilitarization and movement towards a political and diplomatic solution.  

Aroldo Lázaro, the Head of Mission and Force Commander, commended the work of the more than 10,000 military peacekeepers from 49 countries and the civilian staff.

Despite relentless and daily exchanges of fire since the Gaza war began, they have stayed their course in monitoring the fast-evolving situation in south Lebanon, assisting local communities, he said.

Lieutenant General Lázaro also paid tribute to the over 330 mission personnel who have lost their lives serving there.

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