In the last year, the European Union has seen the largest rise in modern slavery risk of any region in the world.
As risk management firm Verisk Maplecroft’s Modern Slavery Index 2017 revealed, risks of exposure to modern slavery in supply chains have risen in nearly three quarters of the 28 EU member states in the last year alone.
“The five EU counties posing the highest risk are Romania, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Bulgaria—key entry points for migrants into the region who are extremely vulnerable to exploitation,” Verisk said. “The research, which assesses 198 countries on the strength of their laws, the effectiveness of their enforcement and the severity of violations, shows drops in the scores for 20 countries across the bloc.”
[Read more about modern slavery: Study Examines Forced Labor Risk in Footwear Brands’ Leather Supply]
More than 100,000 migrants have entered Europe by sea this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, and that fact, as Verisk pointed out, has contributed largely to the problem picking up.
“The migrant crisis has increased the risk of slavery incidents appearing in company supply chains across Europe,” Verisk Maplecroft senior human rights analyst Sam Haynes said. “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.”
Major markets in the EU aren’t immune to this increased risk of unethical labor in their supply chains. This year, Germany and the U.K. both moved from ‘low risk’ to ‘medium risk.’
“New data has revealed gaps in the U.K.’s labor inspectorate, while Germany has experienced an uptick in recording trafficking and servitude violations,” according to Verisk.
After the EU, Turkey—which has also seen a substantial influx of migrants in the last year—experienced the second largest drop in the Index, falling from 110th most at risk to 58th, putting the country squarely in the ‘high risk’ category.
“The influx of 100,000s of refugees from the Syrian war, combined with Turkey’s restrictive work permit system, has led to thousands becoming part of the informal workforce,” Verisk said. “Policing labor violations is also no longer a priority for the government, which is focused on the political crackdown, further adding to the risk.
Modern slavery still an ongoing risk in Asia
While modern slavery may have worsened the most in Europe, it remains an ongoing problem in Asia.
The region’s major manufacturing nations—Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippine and Thailand—are all ranked either ‘extreme’ or ‘high’ risk for modern slavery.
“Despite being rated as ‘extreme risk’ in the part of the index measuring the severity and frequency of slavery violations, India and Thailand, have nevertheless shown improvements in their scores, due to better efforts to enforce slavery related laws,” according to Verisk. “India has improved more than any other country—going from 15th worse to 49th in the overall index. Thailand’s action on enforcing a national programme to eliminate slavery and trafficking, meanwhile, has moved it 21 places up the ranking to 48th highest risk.”
China ranked worse than Bangladesh, falling into the ‘extreme risk’ category with countries like Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen. Bangladesh came right behind, however, falling into the ‘high risk’ category.
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