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Ex Mlt Dwn- Slavery Grows World Wide*

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Slavery, related abuses growing worldwide, report says

By Mark Memmott


Slavery and other insidious types of forced labor are increasing worldwide and have become a ''blight on human freedom'' that afflicts millions of people, the International Labor Organization reports today.

The ILO report cites evidence from a variety of nations, including the United States, where researchers have said 40,000-50,000 foreign women and girls are brought each year and forced to work as prostitutes or in sweatshops.

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia says the report shows that ''slavery, oppression and exploitation of society's most vulnerable members -- especially women and children -- have by no means been consigned to the past.''

Instead, the ILO argues, as globalization has opened markets, it has put more of the world's poorest people in danger. Many are lured from traditional ways of life by promises of jobs, then trapped in virtual prisons on farms, in sweatshops or in brothels.

The world, Somavia says, ''needs to re-examine its conscience. . . . There is no excuse for forced labor in the 21st century.''

The ILO does not try to measure precisely how many people are enslaved or forced to work for little or no pay. But it says they number in the millions. That's in line with other studies.

Two years ago, in his book Disposable People, researcher Kevin Bales concluded there were 27million such people around the world. ''I couldn't confirm that number, but I wouldn't dispute it either,'' says Kari Tapiola, ILO's executive director. ''It sounds as plausible as any estimate.''

Today's report outlines eight main forms of forced labor and names countries where there is evidence of such abuses. The ILO examined governments' arrest, judicial and labor records; reports from activist groups that have interviewed victims; and information collected by ILO staff.

The practices range from the enslavement of thousands of Sudanese caught in a civil war between Christians and Muslims to the ''truly global phenomenon'' of trafficking in humans.

Millions of people, many of them women and girls destined to be forced into prostitution, are moved from country to country each year by criminals who sell them into virtual slavery or demand they work to pay off exorbitant debts, researchers say.

''In many ways what we're talking about is a problem that's as old as any in history,'' Tapiola says, ''but it's one that is not going away.'' Instead, ''our conclusion is that forced labor is on the rise because the number of people caught in the newer forms of forced labor,'' including trafficking in the sex trade, ''is bigger than any decline in traditional forms,'' such as war-related slavery in Sudan.

The Geneva-based ILO was formed in 1919. It is an autonomous ''specialized agency'' that has worked with the United Nations since 1946. It has 175 nations as members.

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