Summary Report for the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery


Franciscans International, Anti-Slavery International and Trócaire Workshop on UN and ILO Mechanisms related to Human Trafficking and Forced Labour
13-15 June 2003, Geneva

Voices of grassroots Franciscans
Franciscans from India, Italy Lebanon and Zambia Give Testimonies

UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
16-20 June 2003

Franciscans International wishes to express its profound gratitude to:

Missionszentrale der Franzikaner, Bonn (Germany)

Franciscan Sisters Missionaries of Mary, Rome (Italy)

Franciscan Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, Rome (Italy)

who generously contributed to the organization of the Workshop and to the participation in the UN Working Group of grassroots Franciscans.

37-39 Rue de Vermont
1202 Geneva
Phone : +41.22.919.40.10
Fax : +41.22.740.24.33

Alessandra Aula, Author


Introduction 2

Franciscans International, Anti-Slavery International and Trócaire 3
Workshop on UN and ILO Mechanisms
related to Human Trafficking and Forced Labour

Voices of Grassroots Franciscans 12

Franciscans from India, Italy, Lebanon and Zambia Give TestimoniesReport of the UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery 18


“Action to combat slavery and slavery-like practices should not be limited to judicial and law enforcement measures. We can also contribute to the eradication of slavery by tackling the social conditions, such as poverty, which make people vulnerable to exploitation, and by empowering people to take control of their own lives.”
Excerpt from the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan
on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December 2002.

Franciscans International continues to make the struggle against contemporary forms of slavery a main programme of action. This report gives us an opportunity to share with you, our Franciscan brothers and sisters, the most recent initiatives in our work of “Mobilizing the Franciscan Family to Combat Human Trafficking”. Your experience and collaboration continue to give us credibility at the United Nations as we advocate for full compliance with anti-trafficking legislation at the international and national levels and the promotion of constructive language for UN resolutions – particularly during the Commission and UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights.

Two highlights of this year’s efforts were (1) the workshop on UN and ILO mechanisms related to human trafficking and forced labour, and (2) the UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. Both events were again formational opportunities for sisters and brothers directly engaged in field projects on slavery and slavery-like practices. Participation at the workshop and the Working Group provided visiting Franciscans with an education in international procedures and norms, aimed at enhancing their mission and expanding their capacity for effective advocacy and networking. The grassroots expertise they brought to Geneva was again invaluable for Franciscans International and the international community as a whole. In many ways these brothers and sisters are the voice of the world’s most vulnerable people – those whose dignity is trampled by their exploiters and, in some cases, even their own governments.

We now face the on-going challenge of effective follow-up and communication. Our goal is to continue developing a consolidated relationship with our Franciscan partners and to continue offering them and the people they serve tools for their empowerment.

Alessandra Aula
Senior Advocacy Officer, FI Geneva
July 2003

Franciscans International, Anti-Slavery International and Trócaire
Workshop on UN and ILO Mechanisms related to
Human Trafficking and Forced Labour
Geneva, Franciscan Friary, 13-15 June 2003


There is a pressing need to focus international attention on the alarming rise of human trafficking and labour exploitation. Unfortunately, the groups that are most vulnerable to these illegal practices are often unaware of the international human rights avenues available to them. Franciscans International, Anti-Slavery International and Trócaire help address this gap by sponsoring an annual workshop aimed at educating such groups about the legal means that combat human exploitation. For the second consecutive year we facilitated interaction between workers from the field and major bodies at the United Nations (UN) – specifically the UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (WG CFS) – and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Franciscans International’s goal has been to reach those sisters and brothers who work directly with victims of trafficking or bonded and forced labour. While they have the daily experience of living and working with oppressed, discriminated and marginalized people, they have often lack knowledge of the international advocacy options available to them. Through greater awareness and better education in this area these grassroots workers not only enrich their local communities, but they also increase the potential for more effective future collaboration with FI, the UN, and the ILO.
This year, Franciscans International facilitated the participation of the following sisters:

- Sr. Stella Balthazar FMM from India
- Sr. Lily George FMM from Lebanon
- Sr. Anna Mwansa FMSA from Zambia
During the workshop, our Franciscan sisters met and interacted with other grassroots people from Brazil, India and Pakistan who work on human trafficking and forced labour.
Our objectives were the following:
- to introduce the participants to the UN human rights system, especially in relation to trafficking and forced labour issues
- to identify and analyse the most effective ways to use ILO mechanisms on trafficking and forced labour
- to increase collaboration on advocacy by uniting regional partners from FI, Anti-Slavery International, and Trócaire
- to strengthen the role of FI as a resource for Franciscans on the ground, by providing them with useful, detailed information to address their advocacy needs
These were the main components of the workshop:
- presentations by experts on UN human rights procedures, discussion and exercises to strengthen understanding
- presentations by experts on ILO mechanisms, discussion and exercises to strengthen understanding
- group discussions of experiences in advocacy
- review of goals and plans of action regarding advocacy objectives with the UN and ILO

Participants were also able to witness how the mechanisms studied during the workshop are implemented at the United Nations by attending the session of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

Reflections on the workshop

Participants of this year’s workshop were again offered an explanation of the technical content of UN and ILO mechanisms and procedures that can be used in tackling the issues of human trafficking and forced labour. Those instruments were fully detailed in the 2002 Workshop report (found on our web site: and will be mentioned only briefly here.

UN and ILO mechanisms

Antoine Madelin (Permanent Representative of the International Federation of Human Rights at the UN in Geneva), Jyoti Sanghera (Advisor on Trafficking to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), Christine Bloch (Permanent Representative of the Jesuit Refugees Service at the UN in Geneva) and Alessandra Aula (Senior Advocacy Officer of Franciscans International, Geneva) gave an overview of the UN human rights system and illustrated some procedures directly related to the issues of human trafficking and forced labour. They made reference to the Treaty Bodies system and its monitoring committees (Committee on Human Rights, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Committee against Torture, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the forthcoming Committee on Migrant Workers) as well as to inherent Charter-based bodies (Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Independent Expert on extreme poverty). Participants also received a thorough explanation of the functioning of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

Thetis Mangahas (Representative of the Forced Labour Special Action Program of the International Labour Organization) and Mike Kaye (Communications Coordinator of Anti-Slavery International) presented the ILO structure, its standards and compliance mechanisms. They referred to several instruments; namely, the Conventions on Forced Labour, the Abolition of Forced Labour, Minimum Age, and the Worst Forms of Child Labour.

Workshop participants then separated into small groups or worked individually to apply the newly acquired information. Each of them was guided by the organizers in reviewing covenants, resolutions, treaty bodies and other UN/ILO resources relevant to their issues of concern. In a brainstorming session that followed they referred to specific challenges in their local experience and worked to develop plans of action to tackle human trafficking and forced labour through advocacy at the UN and the ILO. Groups or individuals then made presentations to the plenary on how to use UN and ILO mechanisms to address these topics.

Analysis of the workshop

Franciscans International is mindful that the effective promotion and protection of human rights requires a concerted and coordinated effort between our sisters and brothers at the grassroots level and NGOs – like our own – that work at the United Nations.

The workshop on UN and ILO mechanisms related to human trafficking and forced labour represents our ongoing commitment to this effort. It is one way FI facilitates formation in human rights mechanisms by helping Franciscans who work in the field gain expertise and by collaborating with other NGOs and our own partners who share our values and commitment. This type of joint project has shown that the vast and various grassroots experiences, when combined with new knowledge of international procedures and norms, make for dynamic, lively and enlightening discussions.

The 2003 workshop was purposely scheduled to be an immediate preface to the session of the UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. This provided participants with a ten-day full-immersion training programme that dealt with all aspects of slavery and slavery-like practices.

The enormous variation between the regions represented at the seminar (Brazil, India, Ireland, Lebanon, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Zambia) proved a priceless asset, but it also posed a few organisational hurdles. For example, not all of the participants spoke English, the language in which the seminar was conducted. Simultaneous translation in other languages was provided, but this hampered the comprehensive and complete exchange of information. It was also unfortunate that two participants (one from FI and one from Trócaire) missed the first day of the workshop because of travel difficulties. Such practical obstacles taught us that more advanced preparation is necessary to avoid last minute problems that will inevitably have an impact on the other parts of the seminar. We will have to be give more attention in the future to preparing a conducive environment for our participants in terms of travel arrangements, accommodation and leisure time in Geneva. Fortunately, our Franciscan sisters lodged in FI office apartments, which allowed them easy access to the nearby UN buildings and time together after their meetings.

The participants were eager to learn how to use international mechanisms in order to advance their local or national concerns, and they benefited from the experts’ presentations. However, it was clear that all of them had an even a stronger need to talk of their own situations, and to share information with the organisers and among themselves. They repeatedly expressed their wish to have more time to inform us of their work and the daily challenges that they face.

The training programme prepared the participants to return to their local communities with a sound knowledge of the advocacy channels that can be used through the UN and the ILO system. Franciscans International is hopeful that they will now share it with those in dire situations so they can also make their voices respected at the international level. Our programmes are designed not only to inform the participants, but also to send them home to empower other people to recover their dignity and fight for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The evaluation sheets below are an encouraging record of the progress we have made thus far, and they give us hope that future training programmes will be even more productive and enlightening.

Agenda of the workshop

We encourage you to carefully read the agenda of the workshop and the participants’ evaluation of the training. These two documents reflect the work we intended to accomplish and how the participants assessed the organisers.

Day I: Friday 13 June 2003
9:00 - 9:15 Welcome and Introduction of the workshop (John Quigley OFM, Director FI Geneva)
9:15 – 10:00 Brief sharing of information among participants: their work at the grassroots, expectations of the training and the Working Group
10:00 - 10:30 Advocacy - locating our understanding and experience of advocacy (facilitated by Mike Kaye, Communications Coordinator, Anti-Slavery International; Alessandra Aula, Senior Advocacy Officer, Franciscans International; and Michael O’Brien, Campaign Officer, Trócaire)
Coffee break
11:00 – 12:00 Overview of UN Human Rights Instruments. (Alessandra Aula)
12:00 –13:00 Focus on UN Treaty Bodies - including some practical examples (Antoine Madelin, International Federation of Human Rights)
14:15 – 15:00 Challenges and opportunities in working at the UN Commission on Human Rights and at the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, including the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (Alessandra Aula, Franciscans International)
15:00 – 16:00 Human rights and trafficking (Jyoti Sanghera, Advisor on Trafficking to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights)
16:30 – 17:30 CHR Special Rapporteurs: What do they cover, how can they be used. How are they most effective? (Christine Bloch, Jesuit Refugee Service)
17:30 Wrap-up and close of Day I
DAY II: Saturday 14 June 2003
9:00 – 9:30 Questions arising from previous day
9:30 – 10:15 Practical exercise - 3 Groups: trafficking, forced labour, child labour. Groups identify relevant human rights mechanisms and discuss which they would use and how they would do so.
10:15 – 11:00 Feedback to the large group (facilitated by Alessandra Aula and Mike Kaye)
Coffee break
11:30 – 12.45 ILO: an overview (Mike Kaye)
14:00 – 15:00 Technical assistance and the ILO Forced Labour & Human Trafficking Special Action Programme (Thetis Mangahas, ILO)
15:30 – 16:45 Introduction to ILO supervisory mechanisms, with
concrete examples of how the supervisory mechanisms work - comment procedure. Art. 24 & 26, the Global Report & mechanisms for un-ratified conventions (Article 19) (Mike Kaye)
16: 45 Wrap up and close of Day II - Evening assignment: Each participant is requested to prepare a practical submission in his / her area of interest referring to the instruments discussed during the day

Day III: Sunday 15 June 2003
9:00 – 10:30 Sharing of the submissions to the large group (facilitated by Mike Kaye and Alessandra Aula)
10:30-11:15 Discussion on the added value of the training to participants in their field related work
Coffee – Distribution of the evaluation forms – starting compilation
11:45 – 12.30 Testimony: “My past mission with domestic girls in Africa, my present mission with African women in Europe” (Dominique Cadel FMM)
12.30 Close of the training

Participants’ Evaluation of the Workshop
1. What was the most useful part of the training?
Sharing of submissions with the large group and receiving clarifications from the organisers.
The dialogue and learning participatory process initiated by the organisers.
Information and practical examples on ILO mechanisms.
2. What was least useful?
Lack of testimony by groups that have used ILO mechanisms.
UN Human Rights Mechanisms

3. If the training were being run again, do you think there should be more, less or about the same amount of time spent on:
(Total responses: 5)

Additional comments:
-Need to have further “time to digest whatever is given”.
- “The introduction to advocacy was very important”.

4. How likely are you to use the information and knowledge gained about the UN Human Rights mechanisms in your work in the future?
Very likely: (3) Quite likely (1) Unlikely: (1)

Additional comments:
- “As we are already using CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) back home to advocate for bringing gender equality, this information is definitely going to sharpen my advocacy skill and I am sure we can use them more forcefully.”
- “Unity is force in every point of view and also it’s very encouraging to know that there is someone to whom we could address when all the doors are closed to ask for the rights of human beings. These are very interesting and useful mechanisms that the UN is offering to humanity.”
- “It (the UN) seems like a slow, bureaucratic, complicated, ineffective system. The only relevant, possibly effective option seems to be to try to identify and work with effective Special Rapporteurs whenever possible.”
- “This experience has given me confidence to build up motivation among the women, children and youth. It gives me hope that there are wider international bodies and networks to which we are linked and through which the marginalized people are linked.”

5. How many of your needs and expectations were met by the training on the UN Human Rights mechanisms (please circle)?
- Needs: All (1) Most (5) Some

Additional comments:
- “I feel comfortable with the knowledge gained here. I still need to spend time on becoming more familiar with all the conventions ratified by the Indian Government.”
- “By indicating the ways and possibilities offered to the country from where I come the UN is already helping to give information and taking information of the working field.”
- Expectations: All Most (4) Some (2)

Additional comments:
- “Gained very good clarity on the method of presenting an appeal, advocacy to the UN committees.”
- “To have someone to talk to, to ask for some information about the topic and to find some practical solutions. Find the ways to make known the situation to others. But it is also a long route to reach the solution.”
- “I did not expect the UN system to be very useful, and the training confirmed this.”

ILO Mechanisms
6. If the training were being run again, do you think there should be more, less or about the same amount of time spent on:
(Total Responses: 7)

Additional comments:
- “The ILO Programme is very good but it was very intensive for me as it was something new.”

7. How likely are you to use the information and knowledge gained about the ILO mechanisms in your work in the future?
Very likely (3) Quite likely (3) Unlikely

Additional comments:
- “The ILO seems to be a much more relevant and potentially effective organisation for NGOs working on forced labour/trafficking issues than the UN mechanisms.
- “It’s very practical and useful so I shall be trying to study more about it and thus help others to know about ILO mechanisms.
- “But I do not know how much the ILO is going to be interested to take up the issues of trafficked persons, especially women and children. If we can establish a report, I think quite likely we are going to use the acquired knowledge in pressuring the government through ILO mechanisms.”
- “I have to establish links with trade unions and network with other experts in the field to make appeals at the ILO level.”

8. How many of your needs and expectations were met by the training on the ILO mechanisms (please circle)?
- Needs: All (2) Most (3) Some (1)

Additional comments:
- “Good introduction to how we can use mechanisms with excellent explanation based on real situations.”
- “The information by the training on the ILO mechanisms is very important for me.”
- Expectations: All (1) Most (4) Some (1)

Additional comments:
- “The ILO seems to be more functional than other UN entities, however, the political nature of some decisions could make any work we do futile.”
- “Give some more time as the participants don’t have enough ideas about this.”
- “For ILO training, I came with a great desire to be informed and the training was very well organized. The subjects were very interesting and the information very excellent.”

10. What last words of advice would you give the organisers?
- “To have a little more time after lunch, as the work was very intensive.”
- “To have a day free in between the training and the meeting at the UN and to meet together or go out for sightseeing.” (3)
- “Thanks, it was very simple and very Franciscan. Please continue the same with many others so that your work in collaboration with other NGOs would be more successful. And also try to go to the ones who may not be able to come here because of different reasons. An awareness campaign is necessary in certain countries as well. The young people should be informed. As Franciscans, we’ve got a lot of possibilities.”
- “Maybe more visual support: over heads, power point, photos, slides, posters etc.” (2)
- “Would it be appropriate to provide joint training with trade unions on how to use the ILO, with a brief introduction/overview of the UN to explain the UN context in which the ILO is situated?”
- “Very important to receive documents in advance so that we can come more prepared.” (2)
- “Interested in learning how to write a document.”
-“It would be better if all the participants have stayed together. It was interesting that there were participants from 4 continents. We would have had an opportunity to interact and learn from each other.” (2)
- “Need to ensure follow-up.”
- “The organisation of the seminar/ workshop was very good. The facilitators, Alessandra and Mike, were very good. The Franciscan family is gaining a strong image in the international circle with its thirst for human rights. I feel proud to be in partnership with FI.”

Voices of Grassroots Franciscans
Franciscans from India, Italy, Lebanon and Zambia Speak at the
UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
Geneva, Palais Wilson, 16-20 June 2003

“The presence and participation of community-based organisations and former victims has reinforced the dynamism of the Working Group (on Contemporary Forms of Slavery). It has strengthened the accuracy of the information it considers and given a profound and human dimension to its work.”
Bertrand Ramcharan, Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
at the opening of the 28th session of the
UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery

Franciscans International is committed to bringing Franciscan sisters and brothers from the field to join in our work in Geneva. In a mutual exchange our office is able to offer them formation in human rights procedures, while they offer us the credible, first-hand testimony born of their local work. More importantly, they are able to share their experience with the various national delegations at the United Nations. During the 2003 session of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, FI ensured each participant of our workshop the opportunity to present her own statement to the plenary assembly. Our office worked closely with the sisters on writing the texts. Together we looked for the most appropriate ways to identify issues, analyse the context and the challenges faced, and, finally, formulate concrete recommendations to the Working Group and the concerned governments. The testimonies reflect the voices of millions of people affected by different forms of slavery around the world and offer the international community the perspectives and values that guide Franciscans when they deal with such problems.

Voicing the concerns of tribal and Dalit people in India

“I am Sister Stella Balthazar FMM from India and I speak on behalf of Franciscans International.
“Tribal peoples are a vulnerable and discriminated group in India even 56 years after the independence of the country. Isolated from the mainstream society, astounded and unable to fight against the onslaught of the highly competitive surroundings, they remain a silenced lot in their inability to fight for their rights and freedoms. They are exploited by the landlords in worst forms of land grabbing, underemployment, ill-treatment. Very often, their life is threatened if they assert themselves.
“Vengapathy, Anaikarai are but few examples of the hundreds of villages and hamlets of the Urali/Irula tribals in the hilltracks of Sathyamangalam, Athikadavu and Bargur forest range in the districts of Erode and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu as well as Palakad district in Kerala. Here, peoples are deprived of their basic rights such as housing, sanitation, healthcare, and education. The Bihils of Rajasthan and the Santhals of Bihar and Jharkand also live in similar, deplorable conditions.
“In particular, children are the most neglected and victims of multiple forms of discrimination. As a result of poverty, migration, illiteracy and inadequate health-care, the Urali/Irula children are oppressed in a variety of ways. Specifically, we would like to call the Working Group’s attention to the fact that education for those children is a remote possibility at the moment. Literacy in these villages hardly reaches 5%.
“Although the government has built some residential tribal schools in Asanur, Thalamalai, Manar and Bargur, these institutions do not cater to the needs of all the villages. They are far fetched from the reach of tribal children. For instance, Asanur is filled and overflowing to its capacity and unable to accommodate the children from the area. Moreover, tribal children do not have access to formal schools in many of the hamlets, in most cases, because their births are not registered. It is therefore urgent that the government in conjunction with the local administrations sets up schools in the villages to favour an easy access to education for all children. The educational system is also in need of special curriculum integrating tribal values and keeping their oneness with nature.
“There is no controversy that the right to education is a fundamental, universal human right. However, the impact of some negative structural adjustment programs and the rooted discriminatory attitude towards tribal peoples led to a situation where the allocation of funds for education, agriculture and health has been slashed. As a consequence, in Tamil Nadu, the government has withheld the appointment of teachers in the minority run government aided schools since the beginning of this month. In a country where literacy is the prime need of future generations such a move is bound to further the marginalization and discrimination of the marginalized, namely the Tribals and the Dalits (the untouchable castes). We strongly urge the government of India to revoke this unjust decision that will further discriminate against this group.
“Franciscans International would like to call upon the government of India to consider the following recommendations for action:
1. To undertake adequate steps to register the birth of every child in the tribal villages and hamlets and deliver birth certificates to each children. A survey should be done on the enrolment of Urali/Irula Tribal children in schools.
2. To create adequate educational institutions for the Urali/Irula Tribal children within their reach.
3. To provide adequate infrastructure facilities such as transportation for the Urali/Irula children to have regular access to schools.
4. To integrate, with the assistance of NGOs, in school curricula the communitarian and life-sustaining values of the Tribal culture and to enable the children to feel respectable to claim their culture with dignity.
5. To integrate the academic excellence of the children with the tribal way of life which is closely aligned with Nature and to restructure the curricula in order to be more life oriented.”

Voicing the concerns of trafficked women to Italy

“I am Ornella Omodei and I speak on behalf of Franciscans International and in my capacity of staff member of the organization “Liberazione e Speranza” (Liberation and Hope), a diocesan group - where Franciscans are actively engaged - operating in Novara, Italy.
“In Italy 10,000 women are estimated to be victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation purposes; about 300 of them are in the territory of the province of Novara where my association works. The majority of them come from Nigeria, to a lesser extent, from Romania, Albania, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, and just a few are from South America.
“I would like to share with the Working Group the programme carried out by “Liberazione e Speranza” in collaboration with the authorities of the province of Novara. Our projects, which are endorsed by the Inter-Ministerial Commission (article 18 of the Law Decree 286 of 25 July 1998), guarantee the implementation of protection and social rehabilitation measures for women victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. About 150 to 200 women have benefited from this initiative in the last three years.
“The program’s main components are the following:
- direct contact with women and girls in the streets,
- personalised educational planning,
- psychological support,
- differentiated hosting periods in appropriate structures,
- health care,
- juridical assistance (obtaining permits, collaboration with police authorities to expedite the denunciations),
- assistance during penal procedures following denunciations in which women are victimised,
- delivery of passports,
- recovering autonomy.
“In the course of those three years, we have been meeting several difficulties which are also shared by other associations working at the national level:
1. For many women, who collaborated with the Italian police by denouncing members of the criminal groups that brought them to Italy and forced them into prostitution, is highly dangerous to return to their own country until the procedure is completely concluded. The fact that some Embassies, namely the ones of Moldova, Ukraine and Romania, do not release passports obliges those women to go back to their home country in order to get an identification document putting at risk their life.
2. Equally unfortunate is the fact that forced repatriation cases of women victims of trafficking and taking part in our programme occurred during those years.
3. Also, due to the threatens and intimidations exerted against the families of the victims that cooperated with the authorities, it is extremely important that protection and assistance measures are established for them as well through effective collaboration among police and administrative forces of the countries concerned.
“In conclusion, Franciscans International and Liberazione e Speranza believe that it is of the utmost importance to allow women victims of human trafficking to fully recover their dignity of human beings by ensuring that governments, at all levels, are engaged in effectively combat trafficking through the implementation of legal standards in conformity with human rights.”

Voicing the concerns of migrant workers in Lebanon

“I am Sister Lily George FMM and I speak on behalf of Franciscans International and in my capacity of member of the Pastoral Committee for Afro-Asian Migrants in Lebanon.
“Despite its own considerable economic and political difficulties, a confluence of causes has made Lebanon a host country for thousand of migrant workers. Among these are: the much greater poverty of the places where these workers come from, the permeability of the Syro-Lebanese border, the need for upper and middle Lebanese classes to have domestic servants, and the importing agencies’ unscrupulous enterprise in finding and exploiting sources of cheap labour. Most of those workers come from India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Senegal, Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria and the Philippines and we estimate the figure of Afro-Asian workers up to 200,000.
“Among the main problems encountered by these people, the following are of special concern to us:
- Mistreatment and exploitation by the recruitment agencies, which often oblige the workers, once they arrive in Lebanon, to sign a much less favourable contract in terms of salary and working hours than the one that they signed in their home country. Such second contracts must be recognised invalid by the national law. In addition, the agencies usually force the workers to sign an agreement forfeiting their first two or three months of salary. Practically, the agency collects as much money as the workers will earn during the whole contract period. As of January 1, 2003, the Lebanese Ministry of Labour has prohibited this practice. We welcome this decision and we look forward to its immediate implementation.
- Arbitrary mistreatment by the employers. Among the cases that we were able to detect are the following:
o accusation of stealing,
o beating,
o confinement,
o food withheld,
o overwork,
o payment withheld,
o sexual abuse,
o verbal abuse.
- A weak police and justice system. First of all, once the migrant arrives at the airport, he is requested to give his passport to an official who stamps it and, then, hands it to the agent or the employer. Furthermore, migrant workers can easily be accused and kept in custody for long periods, or brought before a court with no translator and legal counsel provided. By detaining a person indefinitely, above the allowed 24 hours, the police usually ends up in obtaining his / her signature on a confession in Arabic of any sort of crime.
- Exploitation by Lebanese or foreign “boyfriends” or “fixers”. A whole group of Lebanese lives off migrant workers taking exorbitant amounts of money to “fix” their papers and using women as prostitutes.
“Taking note of the grave difficulties faced by migrant workers in Lebanon, our activities mainly focus on:
- favouring the integration of migrant workers into the Lebanese society by ensuring, for instance, language courses as the majority of them speaks neither Arabic nor English,
- providing them with juridical assistance when they face problems in courts,
- making employers aware about the importance to respect existing legal provisions in signing contracts with migrant workers.
“Franciscans International would like to call upon the government of Lebanon:
- to sign and ratify at the earliest the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families,
- to develop skills-training programmes in community settings for immigration officials, local official and confessional leaders,
- to carry out campaigns to inform and sensitise the general public on abuses committed against migrant workers as well as strengthen labour inspections and law enforcement policies.”

Voicing the concerns of women and girls in Zambia: access to education and early marriages

“I am Sister Anna Mwansa from Zambia and I speak on behalf of Franciscans International and in my capacity of member of the Executive Board of FAWEZA – Forum for African Women Educationalists in Zambia.
“The Committee on the Rights of the Child, after examining my country periodic report this June, issued a series of very pertinent recommendations that need to be implemented at the earliest by the government. In particular, I would like to make reference to the issue of education and highlight the Committee’s appeal that free and compulsory education is ensured and that ‘girls and boys as well as children from urban, rural and least developed areas have equal access to educational opportunities’.
“Accordingly, the specific objectives that we aim at reaching in FAWEZA are the following:
- to create opportunities for increasing girls’ access to schooling,
- to create an enabling environment for girls in schools and colleges,
- to improve the retention of girls in education,
- to increase the learning achievement levels of girls in school.
“Advocating for policies and programmes for the underprivileged and vulnerable girls’
education and for the effective implementation of gender policies as well as challenging and preventing discriminatory practices against female learners and teachers are fundamental avenues that allow us to enter into a high-level dialogue with policy makers and stakeholders on education issues. For instance, we have been successfully involved in countrywide campaigns, ranging from parents to civic and church leaders, to influence the policy of re-admission of pregnant girls to school. We also aired 15 radio discussion programs in the five local languages: Bemba, Lozi, Luvale, Nyanya and Tonga on the benefits of educating the girl child.
“Turning to the question of early and forced marriages in Zambia, it is clear that poverty and lack of education have much to do with this form of slavery. In addition, it is imperative that the government takes all necessary measures to ensure that customary law does not favour the continuation of this practice, notably through raising awareness among community leaders.
“In the name of tradition, girls as early as six years are told to behave like women which means to learn how to hold a baby, how to wash the dishes, how to cook meals. Rebecca’s parents are poor, live in a shanty township and have nine children. Since Rebecca is the eldest, they arrange her marriage in order to alleviate the economic hardships of the family. Her mother simply tells her that she is old enough to get married, that she was sent to school just to learn how to read and write and that, now, the family needs the bride price to pay fees to get her young brother and sister to school. Though she tries to explain that if she continues her studies, she can get a good job and support the family, her parents cannot simply understand. She has no choice, but to comply. When we were informed of this situation, we were able to intervene, bring her back to school and make arrangements for ensuring a safe place to live. Today Rebecca is fifteen years old and is in Grade 8 at Ndeke Basic School.
“Unfortunately, many other girls have not the same chance as Rebecca. They are victims of so called “prestige” or “source of security” by which for a woman to gain respect, marriage as such is the absolute, regardless of the ways and means in which it happens. Franciscans International would, therefore, like to call upon the government of Zambia to implement practical guidelines to orient its citizens on an acceptable age for marriage and to strengthen its efforts, notably through the Zambian Law Development Commission, to review domestic legislation and customary laws in light of existing international standards prohibiting early and forced marriages.”


In addition, Franciscans International presented a joint statement with Initiative D’Entraide Aux Libertés (I.D.E.A.L. INTERNATIONALE) calling for an update and an expansion of the slavery-related standards examined by the Working Group in order that contemporary forms of slavery are effectively assessed in line with the most recent legal provisions adopted by the international community.
Le travail nécessaire à l’élaboration d’une convention internationale sur l’esclavage satisfaisant les Hautes parties contractantes comporte au moins autant de maillons de résistance à briser entre partenaires que de chaînes de la servitude qu’il reste encore à mettre à bas pour libérer les victimes.
Franciscans International et Initiative D’Entraide Aux Libertés – I.D.E.A.L. INTERNATIONALE sont conscientes que le travail ne fait que commencer lorsqu’un texte est enfin adopté. D’autres obstacles s’insèrent entre l’esprit du droit et sa directe efficacité au profit de la victime qu’il doit protéger ou mieux prévenir encore de naître.
La rapidité de la procédure de ratification et la mise en œuvre effective par la jurisprudence du pays démontre si la détermination de l’État Partie est réelle ou virtuelle. En effet, le succès des travaux que nous avons en ce moment, s’ils doivent être les prémices d’un espoir dans la lutte contre les FCE, n’atteindront ce but que lorsque les individus vulnérablement exposés ne pourront imposer par le droit le respect des législations que nos travaux auront pu initier.
La nécessité de normes mises en œuvre n’est cependant pas suffisante, il est urgent d’actualiser le perfectionnement du corpus normatif proportionnellement à l’accroissement de la connaissance que nous avons de la nature souvent polymorphe et, dans le cas des FCE, assurément multiforme, des infractions aux droits de l’homme et aux libertés fondamentales.
Le temps passé à nos travaux dans cette salle ne sera productif sur le terrain que si l’expérience que la société civile apporte, trouve dans des conventions appliquées et dans une jurisprudence déterminée ses manifestations et une adaptabilité au moins aussi réactive que celle des auteurs des infractions.
Franciscans International et I.D.E.A.L. INTERNATIONALE recommandent que le Groupe de travail dépasse l’ambition qui est la sienne dans le point 4 en ne limitant pas l’étude de l’application et du suivi des conventions relatives à l’esclavage aux conventions de 1926, 1949 et 1956 visées par l’agenda, mais que pour des formes contemporaines d’esclavages soient pris en comptes des instruments de plus en plus actuels et à la fois plus démonstratifs du travail accompli dans la connaissance du phénomène.
Il serait également souhaitable qu’une étude soit menée afin de réaliser l’actualisation d’un état des lieux normatif dont la valeur ajoutée consisterait à mettre en évidence les progrès issus du travail déjà accompli, mais également les carences et les obstacles, tant factuels que de complexité juridique, qui demeurent encore opérant et ne permettent pas la perfectibilité optimale des instruments à notre disposition.
Pensant que le document issu de cette œuvre d’actualisation législative contribuera à la modernisation du droit protecteur des victimes et préviendra de nouveaux cas, nos organisations sont prêtes à collaborer avec le Groupe de travail en vue de son élaboration.
Franciscans International et I.D.E.A.L. INTERNATIONALE soutiendront toute initiative et déclaration d’entraide permettant aux victimes de bénéficier d’une législation dans laquelle le coût de nos travaux sera reflété par une perfectibilité acquise de l’ancienne norme dans la nouvelle et permettra une diminution du nombre des victimes pour que s’accroisse le nombre des vulnérabilités protégées.

Report of the UN Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
Geneva, Palais Wilson, 16-20 June 2003


The Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery is a UN body entrusted to study slavery in all its forms. It is composed of five independent experts nominated inside the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, one per regional group. The following persons served as experts this year: Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (Brazil), Chairman-Rapporteur, Mr. Emmanuel Decaux, (France), Ms. Halima Embarek Warzazi (Morocco), Mr. Stanislav Ogurstov (Belarus) and Mr. Abdul Sattar (Pakistan). The Group meets each year (May/June) in Geneva for a week and it submits its report for adoption during the August session of the Sub-Commission. Governmental representatives, specialised agencies, academic institutions and NGOs can attend the WG, and they are entitled to present oral statements on the different agenda items as well as suggestions to the WG draft report.
The 28th session of the Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery was held from 16 to 20 June 2003. Its agenda provided discussion and testimony on such issues as the following:
-contemporary forms of slavery related to and generated by discrimination, in particular gender discrimination (such as forced marriage, child marriage, sale of wives),
- economic exploitation, including domestic and migrant workers; bonded labour and debt bondage; child labour; forced labour,
- sexual exploitation, including suppression of the traffic in persons and the exploitation of the prostitution of others; support, assistance and protection of victims of trafficking, in particular in host countries; sexual exploitation of children and the activities of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women,
- other forms of exploitation, including illegal activities of certain religious and other sects; traffic in children’s organs and tissues; slavery-like practices in armed conflicts,
- review of the implementation of and follow-up to the conventions on slavery.

Main topics discussed during the Working Group

Slavery and slavery-like practices generated by different forms of discrimination

Virtually all the victims of bonded and forced labour in India, Pakistan and Nepal are Dalits, low caste, indigenous people or members of other minority groups. This indicates that, in these situations, the use of this contemporary form of slavery is based on and maintained through societal discrimination even more than debt repayment. In addition, when bonded labourers try to use the established legal process to free themselves they encounter several obstacles, while those who exploit them easily evade sanctions. In fact, many institutions and officials continue to sympathise with the idea that Dalits, indigenous and other minority groups owe a duty of labour to landlords for little or no pay. Franciscans International presented a statement explaining the ongoing discriminations against Dalits and tribal peoples in India (see: section Voices of Grassroots Franciscans).

Pakistani NGOs testified on the problem of gender bias in the legal system of Pakistan since the country is making a concerted effort to “Islamise” laws in order to be more in conformity with religious principles. As a result, the government has declared all extramarital sex illegal. The punishment for adultery is death by stoning. Women who are raped can be criminally tried for engaging in extramarital sex, and if the rapist is someone other her husband, she risks losing her life if she makes an accusation.

The delegate of Pakistan argued that there was a “lack of concrete evidence”, and that evidence presented in those statements amounted to “vague anecdotes”.

The Indian Ambassador took the floor to address “passing references” to his country with regard to forced labour and other human rights issues raised at the Group. He claimed that there are institutional mechanisms within India to combat those problems and referred to recent Indian Supreme Court rulings meant to ensure that police and other government agencies be very diligent in promoting human rights. He stated that the genesis of slavery goes back to rural poverty stemming from 200 years of colonial rule. He reminded the participants that India is the world’s largest democracy with nearly 600,000,000 voters and a work force of 450,000,000. He stressed, therefore, that if the “myths” of 40,000,000 bonded labourers in India were true, then “the government would come down the next day”. He pointed out that, while the numbers that governments give in circumstances like these are highly scrutinized, the numbers given by NGOs are not. He then invited NGOs to come before the Indian Supreme Court and make a sworn affidavit to support their claims regarding the number of bonded labourers in India.

Forced marriage and early marriage

We heard testimonies from three young women, all British citizens of Pakistani descent. Two of them were forced by their families to marry against their wills, while the third only narrowly escaped forced marriage by fleeing her village late at night. The two girls forced into marriage testified that their new husbands repeatedly raped them. All three stressed the intense psychological pressure and coercion used by their families in order to make them conform to their wishes.

Two officers from Scotland Yard declared that the government of the United Kingdom was aware of the gravity of the situation. They said the UK was creating appropriate departments within existing law enforcement agencies to combat the problems posed by forced marriage, which the police regard as a form of domestic violence. The officers also cited a recent policy decision by the British Home Office to restrict the visas of foreign spouses if the British citizen sponsoring that visa is less than 18 years of age.

India-based NGOs said traditional practices and the fact that men outnumber women by nearly two-to-one in many regions are some of the underlying reasons for forced marriage, sale of wives and child marriage in their country.

Franciscans International examined this problem by looking at the situation in Zambia (see: section Voices of Grassroots Franciscans).

A representative from the Violence and Injury Prevention Department of the World Health Organization (WHO) illustrated the detrimental health consequences of early marriages. First, she noted that early marriage often leads to early reproduction. Adolescents are also at a higher risk of poor nutrition. They are at greater risk of developing anaemia, which in turn leads to a high level of maternal mortality, as well as spontaneous abortions. As a result, death rates of mothers between the ages of twelve and fifteen are twice that of mothers past the age of twenty. Children of young mothers are also at risk. The WHO representative noted that children of young mothers are statistically more likely to be the victims of both malnutrition and below average birth weights.

The WHO provided further evidence that women who are married or become sexually active at a young age are much more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease and to be the victims of physical as well as sexual violence. She noted that the highest rate of HIV/AIDS on the African continent is found in the “under fifteen” age group. Further, young wives are much more likely to experience violence within their relationships. The representative noted that, among child prostitutes, in Thailand, 17% are HIV positive, 75% claim to have been beaten by partners and 25% claim to have been raped.

The delegate of Nigeria stated that the practice of forced/early marriage persists only in rural areas of his country and is related to the antiquated notion that a post pubescent girl who still lives in her father’s home is an embarrassment to the family. He referred to this belief as a “lack of appreciation for the girl’s worth” and claimed that time, education and cooperation would cure the problem.

Abduction of children

Presentations were made on the problem of parents that kidnap their children after divorce (and in relation to religious beliefs, particularly when the father is a Muslim). In one testimony a young man told how his Saudi Arabian father had kidnapped and taken him and his sister back to Saudi Arabia after a US court had granted custody to their American mother. He said his mother tried to escape from Saudi Arabia, but was repeatedly turned away by officials at the US embassy in Riyadh. He stressed the importance of creating a protocol for handling such cases in the future. In another testimony a mother who won custody of her daughter in an American court said but the young girl’s father took her to Saudi Arabia and has refused to let her leave. She also stressed the need for a protocol, and international cooperation and intervention in these matters to ensure custody and visitation rights to parents of bi-cultural children.

The Saudi Arabian representative declared that, while ha had no information about the case of the young man, his government fully recognised the rights of the mother to visit her daughter but that the witness “must be more careful in her use of such words as ‘slavery’ and ‘abduction.’” He also stated that US courts are simply more likely to give custody of a child to the mother, while Saudi courts are more concerned with what is in the best interest of the child. The Saudi representative said the two governments need protocols to handle similar situations in the future.

Migrant and domestic workers

Experts and NGOs expressed satisfaction that the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families will enter into force next 1 July. However, speakers concurred in highlighting that, 1) a broader ratification has to be encouraged, including from receiving countries; and 2) States have to introduce comprehensive national legislation to protect all migrant workers in line with the Convention and other relevant international human rights standards. Ratification of the Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, Supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Crime is also fundamental to ensure the promotion and protection of migrants’ basic rights.
Anti-Slavery International presented a detailed paper on forced labour and exploitation of Indonesian migrant workers. Since Franciscans International is closely monitoring the human rights situation in Indonesia and in the province of West Papua, we found the ASI statement a particularly interesting documentation of another grave abuse perpetrated by Indonesian authorities. The document explains that most Indonesians who wish to work abroad as low-status workers are officially required to go through over 400 government-sanctioned recruitment agencies, which seek to profit from the migrant trade. The Indonesian government’s requirement for migrants to use the agency system, and its failure to provide adequate rights and legal protection, makes these workers particularly vulnerable to exploitation. The activities of these agencies (involving the recruitment, training, transportation and return of migrants) often result in workers being subjected to forced labour or highly abusive employment practices. Agencies that use coercion and deception to transport migrants abroad fall into the category of traffickers. Despite the gravity of the situation, there is no law against trafficking in Indonesia and no specific national legislation for the protection of migrant workers. Even worse, Article 66 of the Indonesian government’s Ministerial Decree No. 104A/2002 has only served to aggravate the situation by requiring low-status migrant workers to return to Indonesia to renew their contracts. This means they have to leave their jobs for two weeks and pay for their airfare and agency fees again rather than having their contract validated by the Indonesian Consulate in the host country.
Franciscans International intervened on this topic by directing the Working Group’s attention to the situation of migrant workers in Lebanon (see: section Voices of Grassroots Franciscans).

Human trafficking

Several NGOs referred to the question of the trafficking of women and children from Nigeria and other African countries to Italy for the purposes of sexual exploitation. It was noted that, although the Nigerian government has lowered the prices for replacement passports, they are still very high. It was recommended that they be lowered even more (or even be made free) for women and children who are held in Italy as sexual slaves, since their traffickers often confiscate their passports. NGOs recognized the Italian model as a good practice in ensuring victims’ protection, since provisions have been adopted by which protection and support to victims is not conditional on cooperation in prosecutions. Franciscans International intervened to explain the challenges of conducting a project with trafficked women in Northern Italy (see: section Voices of Grassroots Franciscans).

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women illustrated good practices and positive steps that several countries have been undertaking to put an end to trafficking in women. The countries given special mention were Bangladesh, Mexico, Sweden, the Philippines and several French municipalities. The representative reminded the Working Group that trafficking and prostitution are inextricab

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Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
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Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery