There are an estimated 451,000 people living in modern slavery in Eritrea (GSI 2018). The small country has a unique system of compulsory, open-ended military service for citizens that makes it one of the most oppressive states in the world. The government has enforced its current policy of sending all secondary school students to serve for a minimum of twelve months since 2003. While Eritrean law puts the minimum conscription age at 18, many teenagers find themselves recruited during high school at age 16 or even younger. In rural areas, where formal education is rarer, the army will visit villages to round up young girls and boys who look roughly of age, to begin their program of combat training and forced labour. In 2007, like other adolescents in the Northeast African country of Eritrea, Luwam Estifanos was taken to Sawa, a military camp near the Sudanese border. Luwam was forced to get up 5.30am, run for two hours before sunrise, followed by 12 hours of weapons training, marching and cleaning. She recalls how girls were forced to engage in the same activities as boys however they are also subjected to sexual assault. Luwam was finally able to escape in 2010, making a 12-hour trek through the desert into Sudan. After a year in Sudan, Luwam travelled to Uganda and following one refusal and months of waiting, was eventually granted asylum in Norway with the rest of her family.
he Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that there are 2,640,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). Men, women and children are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Government oppression in the DPRK prompts many North Koreans to flee the country in ways that make them vulnerable to human trafficking in destination countries. Many of the estimated 10 000 North Korean women and girls who have migrated illegally to China to flee abuse and human rights violation are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Some lure, drug, detain or kidnap North Korean women on their arrival, others offer jobs but subsequently force the women into prostitution, domestic service, or forced marriage. If found, Chinese authorities often repatriate victims back to the DPRK where they are subjected to harsh punishment including forced labour in labour camps or death.Son-Hyun Choi left North Korea in 2007 to China. However, upon arrival she was sold to a man who sexually abused her. Though she was able to escape and gain employment, she found her self under continued surveillance.
There are an estimated 212,000 people living in modern slavery in Malaysia (GSI 2018). The majority of those exploited are migrant and undocumented workers in the country. Foreign workers constitute more than 20 percent of the Malaysian workforce and typically migrate voluntarily—often illegally—to Malaysia from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian countries, mostly in pursuit of better economic opportunities. Some of these migrants are subjected to forced labour or debt bondage by their employers, employment agents, or informal labour recruiters when they are unable to pay the fees for recruitment and associated travel. Thiri came to Malaysia in 2007 from Myanmar without documents. He was brought to immigration officials and was told he was being deported to the Thai-Malaysian border. However, he was forced into the back of a vehicle and taken to a house where traffickers demanded money to go back to Malaysia. Those that could not pay, including Thiri were kept in the house and threatened with forced labour. Thiri and six others tried to escape and have the traffickers arrested but police were involved in the trafficking and they were taken back to the house where they were being kept. Thiri was forced to cook and clean, sell drugs, and become the traffickers’ ‘bodyguard,’ beating new arrivals who also could not pay the fee to return to Malaysia. Eventually Thiri was able to escape.