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50 mln in modern slavery as crises exacerbate extreme poverty: UN

The number of people forced to work or in a marriage against their will has surged in recent years to around 50 million, the UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Monday following the release of its modern slavery report.

Employment and education have suffered unprecedented disruption by crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, armed conflicts and climate change while exacerbating extreme poverty and forced migration, the agency said.

These, in turn, provoke events conducive to the growth of slavery. The number of people in modern slavery has risen by around 9.3 million since the last report published in 2016.

The latest figures show that forced labour accounted for 27.6 million of those in modern slavery in 2021, more than 3.3 million of whom are children, and forced marriage for 22 million.

Half of forced labour occurred in either upper-middle income or high-income countries, with migrant workers more than three times as likely to be affected, the ILO found.

The report mentioned Qatar, which has been under fire over alleged labour rights violations relating to migrants working there in the runup to the FIFA soccer World Cup, starting in November.

The ILO said in its report, however, that since it opened an office in the capital Doha in April 2018, there had been “significant progress” regarding the living and working conditions for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the country, even as problems remained with implementing new labour rules.

For Qatar 2022 Chief Executive Nasser Al Khater Qatar, who addressed the accusations on Thursday, the criticism that the country has faced over its hosting the World Cup is unfair and not based on facts.

The ILO report also zoomed in on forced labour in parts of China and referred to a report released by the UN’s human rights commissioner on August 31, to Beijing’s great displeasure. The August report said that “serious human rights violations” had been committed in China and that the detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may constitute crimes against humanity.

China has staunchly denounced the allegations.

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